County Introduces $214 Million Budget
This 2013 proposed budget is 1.7 percent higher than last year's.
The Somerset County Board of Freeholders introduced a $214.7 million 2013 budget Thursday, according to a release from the county.
A public hearing on the budget will be held April 11 at 5 p.m. at the county administration building on Grove Street in Somerville.
"The 2013 budget reflects the same types of tough choices that have been seen in every budget cycle for the last few years," said freeholder, and county finance chairman, Robert Zaborowski in a release. "What makes this year a little bit different is that we believe we may finally be seeing a turnaround in the economic conditions facing the county, and a sign that future budgets may not be left to choose between further cuts in service and raising tax revenues."
The 2013 budget is a $3.7 million increase, or 1.7 percent, from the 2012 budget of $210.9 million. In total, the release said, the county's operating expenses increased by $777,978, or 0.56 percent.
"For the first time in several years, we are seeing increases in some of our revenues," Zaborowski said in the release. "For instance, we believe we've seen a turnaround in the overall real estate market. A 22 percent increase in real estate transactions is contributing to a $2.13-million-dollar increase in county revenues to help offset other cost increases."
In terms of economic conditions in the county, the release said, unemployment has dropped from 8 percent in 2009 and 2010 to 6.9 percent now.
Still, Zaborowski said in the release, the county is looking at decreasing revenues, financial flexibility and continuing demands on services.
The proposed county budget includes:
- Fully funding the transition to countywide 911 dispatch, preserving funding for volunteer fire departments and rescue squads, absorbing Somerset County Police Academy into the county budget and adding six positions in Public Safety Radio.
- Funding county services for seniors, including in-home meal programs, seven senior centers and programs through the Board of Social Services.
- Funding 15 labor agreements with unions.
- Mandatory debt payments to pay for costs of storm cleanup from Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene, with an additional $2.9 million in costs.
- Reducing salary costs despite still providing critical services, including not filling 23 positions, for a savings of $900,000. Plus, an additional $1.02 million in budget items won't be funded in 2013.
- Continuing shared services.
"The budget requires some shared sacrifices on everybody's part," Zaborowski said in the release. "Our department and division heads continued to find ways of offsetting costs with the aim of preserving services and programs. We've again asked all outside agencies and departments to do the same."
Most importantly, we've continued a long-standing practice of integrity and transparency in this budget," he added. "There are no gimmicks or one-shot revenues used to make this budget work. Although there are no guarantees, this 2013 budget is built upon decisions that we feel are sustainable over time. This budget also continues a long-standing tradition of not drawing down the county surplus account for the sake of budgetary convenience.”
Freeholder, and finance committee vice chair, Patricia Walsh said in the release that 24 of the 59 department, program or division budgets have been cut for a total of $1,675,709 cut.
“County government is a service-providing organization,” Zaborowski said in the release. “When the economy is not strong, the demand for the services we provide—typically to those on fixed and low-to-moderate incomes—increases."
“We are pleased that spending remains below the 2008 levels, but we need to continue to do more with fewer taxpayer dollars," he added in the release. "This budget reflects that effort by setting priorities, then maintaining critical services and cutting spending in accordance with those priorities.”
The 2013 budget presentation can be seen by clicking here.
To read the 2013 budget as introduced, click here.