Government

Middlesex County Freeholders Adopt Budget, Raise Taxes

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Residents will see an increase this year in their county tax bills.

The Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders last week adopted a $458.5 million budget. That’s roughly $19 million higher than the 2016 budget of $439.5 million, according to county documents.

“The budget illustrates this board’s commitment to its residents, as it continues to provide quality programs and services, despite federal and state funding cuts, and keeps our expenses in check” Freeholder Leslie Koppel said prior to the adoption of the budget.

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The county plans to collect $380.4 million in taxes from Middlesex’s 25 municipalities, for an increase of about $11.5 million from last year’s budget.

That represents a 1 cent increase per $100 of assessed valuation to the tax rate. For the average taxpayer, that hike will equal an additional $20 per year, county officials said.

But exactly how much residents pay in county taxes depends on the value of their homes. Some will pay less than the additional $20 and others will pay more.

Furthermore, school and municipal tax rates also affect the total tax bill.

Increases to the spending plan remain within the state-mandated 2 percent cap, according to officials.

The county set aside more than $50 million for capital improvements in this year’s budget. Projects range from road construction and park expansions to bridge repairs and technology upgrades.

Increases to operating expenses total $15.5 million, according to budget documents. The largest spike comes from salaries and wages, which climbed by $3.8 million.

County officials expect an additional $7.5 million in revenues this year.

That money may come from the county clerk’s office, which plans to earn $2.8 million, and the medical examiner’s office, which is slated to land $2.6 million through shared-services agreements. Meanwhile, the county is in line to receive $4.4 million from its youth detention facility, which serves three other counties.

Middlesex officials slammed the state for costs associated with bail reform and the speedy-trial initiative. Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said they tally up to $1.9 million, including salaries.

“Once again, the state is passing down to the counties the costs of a program it is mandating,” he said, noting that he has reached out to lawmakers for help. “I will continue to work with them and fight to establish a funding mechanism for this unfunded mandate.”

Middlesex is the first of New Jersey’s 21 counties to adopt its 2017 budget.

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