UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved a budget that will not increase County taxes — the first time in nearly 20 years — to ease financial pain for residents and business owners caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The 2020 budget, which was unanimously passed at the Freeholders' May 21 meeting, promised to avoid layoffs and maintain essential county services, while having an average tax decrease of $18 for county homeowners. To do so, $53.29 million will be taken from the county’s surplus to fulfill the overall $614.918 million budget, a total budget increase of $124.001 million from 2019.

“This was not an easy task,” said Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “But it was absolutely necessary.”

Sign Up for Summit Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Not every town in the County, though, will have zero increase in county taxes for homeowners, due to the way property taxes are apportioned by the state. Out of the 21 municipalities in the county, 10 will have tax increases.

“That’s not necessary a zero impact for every town,” Mirabella said at a mid-April meeting. “Although the overall budget is a zero increase.”

The decision comes as the county grapples with declining revenues caused by the pandemic. Fiscal chairman Sergio Granados said the county expects a sharp revenue decline from parks, golf courses and sheriff sales in the coming months. The county clerk's office will also collect less in fees, as the emergency response for the pandemic mounts into the millions, Granados said.

Granados did note, though, that the partial shutdown of government services and cancellations of county programs and events do save some money. To mitigate expenses further, the county implemented a hiring freeze, expected to last at least until the end of the calendar year, according to County Manager Edward Oatman, who said all vacant positions in the budget have been eliminated. 

“We reviewed the budget line by line item for savings and asked department heads to make cuts also,” Granados said. 

During the public hearing, one resident asked the freeholders to dip further into the surplus to decrease overall tax levies, though one freeholder said the proposal wasn’t sustainable. 

“While that feels good in the abstract, it does not create a prudent policy,” said Freeholder Christopher Hudak. Listing services the county provides its residents, he added, “It doesn't speak to the continuation of government and the continuity of services in Union County.”

Union County residents with a home assessed at the municipality’s average can expect the 2020 county tax bill as the following:

  • Summit – $4,865 versus $4,935 in 2019 ($70 decrease from 2019)

  • Berkeley Heights – $2,933 versus $2,978 in 2019 ($45 decrease from 2019)

  • Clark – $2,254 versus $2,245 in 2019 ($9 increase from 2019)

  • Cranford – $2,570 versus $2,614 in 2019 ($44 decrease from 2019)

  • Elizabeth – $1,602 versus $1,588 in 2019 ($14 increase from 2019)

  • Fanwood – $2,277 versus $2,351 in 2019 ($74 decrease from 2019)

  • Garwood – $1,952 versus $2,080 in 2019 ($128 decrease from 2019)

  • Hillside – $1,346 versus $1,287 in 2019 ($59 increase from 2019)

  • Kenilworth – $1,750 versus $1,727 in 2019 ($23 increase from 2019)

  • Linden – $1,487 versus $1,465 in 2019 ($22 increase from 2019)

  • Mountainside – $2,960 versus $3,114 in 2019 ($154 decrease from 2019)

  • New Providence – $3,062 versus $3,013 in 2019 ($49 increase from 2019)

  • Plainfield – $1,209 versus $1,250 in 2019 ($41 decrease from 2019)

  • Rahway – $1,361 versus $1,313 in 2019 ($48 increase from 2019)

  • Roselle – $1,176 versus $1,083 in 2019 ($93 increase from 2019)

  • Roselle Park – $1,457 versus $1,440 in 2019 ($17 increase from 2019)

  • Scotch Plains – $2,685 versus $2,717 in 2019 ($32 decrease from 2019)

  • Springfield – $2,058 versus $2,060 in 2019 ($2 decrease from 2019)

  • Union – $1,513 versus $1,506 in 2019 ($7 increase from 2019)

  • Westfield – $3,811 versus $3,936 in 2019 ($125 decrease from 2019)

  • Winfield – $90 versus $93 in 2019 ($3 decrease from 2019)