PATERSON, NJ - On Feb. 14, the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders announced that there will be no tax increase in its proposed operating budget for the year.
Last year, taxes increased by 1.6%. This is the first time in decades that taxes were not increased.
Freeholder Director Cassandra “Sandi” Lazzara said, “County government works best when everyone comes together as a team. The Freeholder board worked in unison with knowledgeable and skilled department heads and our experienced county administrator Anthony De Nova to bring this budget to fruition. It will keep our tax rate stable while maintaining Passaic County’s AA bond rating.”
Every year, the county pays an obligation of $4.5 million because of the failed Passaic County Utility Authority project, also known as “The Legacy Debt” from the 90s. In total for this year the county paid off $10 million in debt.
According to the Freeholders, on average for every local tax dollar in the county, only 23.5 cents are sent to Passaic County. About 41.9 cents goes to schools, while 34.6 goes to the municipalities.
“This took years of planning and making hard decisions, but our county is in the best fiscal shape with the best bond rating in Passaic County history. Our administrator, department heads and team are simply the best. Good government produces good results,” Freeholder Deputy Director Bruce James stated.
There are many factors that contributed to taxes no being decreased. The county worked with unions to negotiate collective bargains, 193 employees switched to a lower cost alternative health plan, and Passaic County adopted and adhered to a policy for no bonding anything above $10 million a year. In addition, the county did not anticipate more surplus than expected regenerates, reducing the workforce from 2,392 to 1,850 between 2006 through 2016, working with Essex County in the largest shared service to consolidate youth detention that saves the county $10 million every year, and using conservative fiscal practice by “anticipating revenue in line with past performance.”
The county has also switched its investments from big banks to community banks, which from 2015 was at $36,520 to $316,390 in 2016, which is nearly 10 times more the investments.
DeNova said at the Freeholder meeting, “We came out of the worst recession in recent history in better shape than when we went in, and with a better handle on the future.”