RANDOLPH, NJ - Christine Myers, Morris County Freeholder, and County Administrator John Bonanni, visited the Randolph Township Council to present the 2017 county budget on Thursday.

The County Operating Budget of $332.1 million will increase taxes by 1.79%, an annual increase of $18.44 per average Morris County home. When compared to the 2016 budget, this looks like a decrease of $8.6 million.

“Really this is just the way the state is now letting us handle funding for psychiatric care,” Myers explained. “We used to account for it, and then it was a trade-off, give-and-take plan. Now we don’t have to wash it through our budget. It look a little deflated, but in essence it’s not.”

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The county does hold almost $1 billion in ratables, and “more ratables means a lower tax rate” Myers said.

The largest budget increase came from health care with a mandatory and contractual increase of $6 million. From 2011 to 2017 Morris County Health Care increased by 4.6%; however, had they stayed with the state plan, they would have experienced an 8.3% increase.

Other increases in costs include salary adjustments, the Morris View transition, Criminal Justice Reform, pension increases, a county-wide EMS program and State Human Service/ Mental Health needs.

“[The county-wide EMS program] is probably the only discretionary funding that we have approved this year, and that was because… what we were finding is that there’s a dearth of volunteers, especially during the day across the county,” Myers detailed.

“In the communication center, we monitor where all the squads are, and when all the squads become unavailable, we move our squad to that place,” Bonanni clarified. “It’s just a filler… It will move around strategically, based on where the other committed ambulances are… It only runs weekdays, Monday through Friday, unless it’s requested.”

Morris County maintains their AAA bond-rating from both Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s.

“They wanted to see that we continue to emphasize the need for an economic development plan, and a strong economy, and that we were willing to raise taxes if it was necessary. They recognize that a strong economy is obviously the backbone of our ability to provide all these services,” Myers continued.

Myers also expressed the freeholders’ desire and need to align on a vision, mission and guiding principles in order to develop a strategic plan for the county.

“It was wonderful for us to actually be able to align around a vision and a mission. The vision and the mission is around preserving our quality of life, maintaining a caring community, and ensuring that we deliver the high-quality services that our residents need,” Myers concluded. “We recognize we live in a unique place and we ought to treat it with respect, and that we at all times protect things like our AAA bond-rating, our citizens, and that we act ethically and transparently and with one voice, and maintain a strong economy.”