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Freeholders OK Budget, Say Fiscal Discipline is Paramount

$300 million in taxes needed to support $354.2 million spending plan

Ocean County freeholders said maintaining the county's core services while keeping taxes down will be an ongoing process, with 2013 budget work already under way as the 2012 financial framework is adopted.

The board unanimously approved its $354,189,256 2012 budget at its regular meeting Wednesday in the , Toms River. Freeholders pledged to provide the services county citizens need, especially in tough economic times, but said they will be forced to do "less with less" in the future as revenues decline and ratables disappear.

"Today is not the end of the discussion," said Freeholder John Bartlett, liaison to the Department of Finance. "It's really the beginning of the discussion because we will be in the process continually this year of refocusing county government toward its core functions."

To support the budget Ocean County will raise a $300,026,643 tax levy, up $6,747,893 over the 2011 spending plan, with a tax rate of 29.9 cents per $100 in equalized value, a 1.7-cent hike over the 2011 budget. Federal and state aid of almost $7.5 million, $29.7 million in miscellaneous revenues and $17 million in surplus will balance the books for the 2012 budget.

Although there is almost no spending increases in the adopted budget, freeholders were forced to increase the tax levy primarily due to two factors: revenues declined by more than $5 million from 2011 and the county's ratable base keeps shrinking, down by almost $4 billion from 2011.

Year Ratable Valuation Tax Rate Amount to be Raised by Taxation 2008 $108,897,663,942 25.4 cents per $100 $276,305,117 2009 $109,906,985,727 25.5 cents per $100 $278,876,987 2010 $105,510,706,298 27.2 cents per $100 $287,002,464 2011 $104,334,745,378 28.1 cents per $100 $293,278,750 2012 (estimated) $100,177,834,492 $29.9 cents per 100 $300,026,643

"We used to say we're doing more with less but I'm afraid we have to say we're going to do less with less because we are darn near the bottom of the barrel," Bartlett said.

Spending across departments is largely flat over the 2011 plan, with increases to the Board of Social Services and law enforcement, as the expansion of the Ocean County Jail has necessitated 44 hires over the past two years. The overall spending plan totals $1.4 million above the $352.7 million 2011 budget, which raised $293.3 million via taxation. 

Freeholder Director Gerry Little said the county will continue it's policy of shedding salaries via attrition, with departing or retiring staffers only replaced where there's a "vital need." The county is down almost 200 jobs in the past three years, with $360,000 saved from the 2011 budget by not replacing 56 staffers who departed.

"We will gradually reduce the scope of county government to reflect the financial reality of diminished financial resources. Our changes will be small, they will be predictable but... there will be no surprises," Bartlett said.

Freeholder Joseph Vicari said budgeting is an "ongoing process" that is especially difficult in "troubled times.

"We have a responsibility to maintain these programs," Vicari said. With Wednesday's adoption, he can look people in the eye and say "this is a good budget."

Gary Black, a resident of Jackson, agreed. "You guys got it right," he said. "This is a surprise; it's government doing what it's supposed to do."

2012 Budget Revenues

SOURCE AMOUNT PERCENTAGE Surplus $17 million 4.80 Miscellaneous $29,667,582 8.37 Federal, State aid $7,495,131 2.12 Amount Raised by Taxation $300,026,643 84.71 Total: $354,189,356 100 

2012 Budget Appropriations

APPROPRIATIONS AMOUNT PERCENTAGE General Government $84,956,059 23.99 Health and Welfare $38,734,653 10.94 Educational $33,515,879 9.46 Roads and Bridges $22,917,701 6.47 Judiciary $1,196,820 .33 Regulation $27,161,214 7.67 Unclassified $18,257,328 5.15 Correctional and Penal $25,850,471 7.30 Recreational $5,954,246 1.68 Contingent $200,000 .06 State, Federal Programs $7,495,131 2.12 Capital Improvements $11,038,283 3.12 Debt Service $50,474,905 14.25 Deferred Charges $26,436,666 7.46 Total: $354,189,356 100
Catherine Galioto (Editor) March 22, 2012 at 04:05 AM
No comments were removed from this story this far.
Rufus O'Callahan March 22, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Nice job by this group of tax-hiking liberal Republicans who share a brain. Three consecutive years of raising our taxes, with every single Freeholder voting alike. What is it going to take for people in this area to WAKE UP and start voting in people who better represent the interests of this county instead of doing favors for George Gilmore and hooking up friends and family with no-show jobs?
ashorething March 22, 2012 at 11:50 AM
They are not tools, you post on just about every story that comes on the patch and the comments are usually pretty negative even when the story isn't a bad one. The Freeholders in Ocean County are an anomaly, they actually give the county a ton of services and govern well while actually keeping the tax rate pretty stable. No where else will you see this in NJ or any other state. While other Republican county and local administrations, and Dem ones, can't get their acts together no matter what, these guys actually do a great job.
ashorething March 22, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Comments probably wouldn't have to be removed if people posting them didn't just spew negative comments and attacks. Most of the posters on these sites don't understand the articles they are posting on in the first place.
Oscar Wilde March 22, 2012 at 12:02 PM
oh really, have you seen the tax rate the past 4 years in the middle of the greatest recession ever
ynot March 22, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Catherine, didn't say this story....THE PATCH
JHill March 22, 2012 at 01:01 PM
**Ocean County freeholders said maintaining the county's core services while keeping taxes down will be an ongoing process** Yawn, same old spin. How come my taxes go up every single year? What is up with the Republicans in Ocean County? They all love to RAISE TAXES every chance they get!!! These tax and spend politicians have to be voted out.
Securevelope March 22, 2012 at 01:45 PM
I like the part where they claim they were forced to raise taxes due to decline in revenue and rateables shrinking. If they spent money more wisely to begin with, rateables wouldn't be declining and revenue would be coming in. Morons. They should be thinking about how to keep more businesses from being boarded up and closing down instead. Do they even drive around town and see what's going on? Has anyone noticed all the boarded up and empty stores for YEARS along Rt 37? And they wonder why rateables are down. They increased the tax value of property what? Two / three years ago and it's all sinking like a rock now. I don't pretend to understand all this tax math, but when you raise the tax value of my home, then raise the taxes of my home because it's rated higher, THEN tell me that they're raising taxes again because the rates are dropping, I just get angry. Businesses or private property, it's the same sleight of hand with my money and anyone who owns property of any sort in NJ is only getting screwed. I can't wait for this economy to turn around. When it does, I'm on the first migration out of this hell hole.
Steve March 22, 2012 at 01:47 PM
General Government and debt Service make up 38% of the expenditures. It would be good to see the picture of how these expenditures have trended over the last 5 years. Also, more detail on the General Government category would shed light on the "overhead" in the County Government.
Oscar Wilde March 22, 2012 at 01:58 PM
sorry to say, that boat has already left and you missed it , its not turning around and its not coming back....we are going down with this stinking ship
Securevelope March 22, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Oscar - not always true. We're actually hoping a new job prospect comes through this month and within a year we could be out of here. I refuse to die in NJ. I don't want my soul left here nor my bones and ashes. My biggest life regret is moving to NJ. I grew up in NYC and lived there the majority of my life. I paid LESS in taxes and got MORE for my money. This place is nothing but a scam.
Mr. ? March 22, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Not to defend, but when the total ratable base, the total evaluations of property in the county, in which the rate is based and your taxes are calculated, decreases, then the rate must go up. Your taxes go up. You are picking up the burden of those who no longer pay.... taxes no longer being paid by businesses going out, or any property tax appeal adjustment decreasing the total evaluation. The revenue stream to the government operation must remain constant. Of course increased spending also adds. You cant blame the property evaluation decrease and the raise in rates alone, but you can blame the fact that this occurs on government if it is responsible for a less than prosperous local economy. Its a downward spiral as government spends, taxes go up thereby decreasing values further.
Mr. ? March 22, 2012 at 02:55 PM
......"revenues declined by more than $5 million from 2011 and the county's ratable base keeps shrinking, down by almost $4 billion from 2011." What I don't understand here is that that statement should raise the rate and your taxes, but not the total of the budget...spending. The use of surplus was also done last year and again this with no mention of how much surplus is left, and that's a concern! And your right Steve, it would be nice to see a five or more year comparison of all the numbers. Securevelope"I don't pretend to understand all this tax math, but when you raise the tax value of my home, then raise the taxes of my home because it's rated higher, THEN tell me that they're raising taxes again because the rates are dropping, I just get angry" When your properties were re-evaluated, the rate was reduced . By statute revenue can not be increased through a re-evaluation, a re- assessment of property.
Securevelope March 22, 2012 at 02:57 PM
OK Mr. ? but I still stand by my comment that the entire state is a gigantic scam. The role of our local government is to keep things GOOD for the people and they have failed the entire time I've lived here.
Oscar Wilde March 22, 2012 at 03:43 PM
DEBT IS THE FREELOADERS DIRTY LITTLE SECRET !!!!...
Mr. ? March 22, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Agreed!, patronage, nepotism, and greed. A corruptible process of government, a society in which it is so easy to partake, and one that many politicians thrive in. Principles and ethics along the fine line of the law. Just because the politicos can say " well that is the law and the process and so I will take what I can get" doesn't make it right. But then we, NJ, just received our B plus rating in ethics reform and a war against corruption. Bull crap! More corruption = a more reform effort ...and we are talking about NJ as a whole, not this article specific.
Concerned March 22, 2012 at 04:31 PM
the best line is savings of 360K$ by reducing staff by 56. THAT'S 56 $6,400 jobs. what were they all no show jobs just over the min. to get benefits ? I'd like to see the list. Must be a WHO'S WHO OF OCEAN COUNTY.
Mr. ? March 23, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Mr. ? Hey Concerned, Said that already on..... 8:52 pm on Friday, February 10, 2012 "56 positions via attrition for a savings of $358,102. I am reading this right? "56 positions" jobs right?... $6395.00 each?" .......but that's good, we agree and we must be right! Interesting, no one replied to our statements?
Ken Bank March 23, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Since Christie became Governor the GOP Freeloaders have raised the tax rate 20%from 25 mills to 30 mills. Christie's "tool-kit" for property taxes is nothing more than keeping pensions, perks and benefits for GOP bosses while everybody else gets the shaft!
Rich Wieland March 23, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Regardless of whether a business leaves, property taxes are still paid by the owner of the building, so the county freeloaders and township/school politicians get their shares. It's the state that loses money (sales and income taxes).
Bob Smith March 23, 2012 at 02:51 PM
ashorething are you one of the Freeholders or an employee of the county? We all know they are a bunch of crooks and cronies stealing our money. I dont think we get that great of services with a over bloated government that needs to cut just like every household has had to cut during the great recession. The only increase I would allow is to social services because so many people are out of work and suffering the rest should be cut, cut cut.... like any business with declining revenues. Government does not live in the real world and get's away with because it can. If salaries have to be cut so be it... its better to have a job then no job. Who is looking after the taxpayer? NO ONE!!!!
Stinger March 23, 2012 at 10:20 PM
I'm sure it's a pretty difficult job being a freeholder, trying to balance everyone’s wants and needs while still keep the taxes within reason. Thank you for all you hard work. With that said, the fact is we don't own county workers healthcare and retirement that have little or no co-pay, and we don’t owe their loser brother-in law or cousin or whatever, who couldn't get a job anywhere else a living. So, with all due respect, find a way to lower the taxes or we'll vote you out of office and find someone who will. Thank you
jason May 21, 2012 at 02:18 PM
free-loaders they spend spend and spend then tax tax tax , they all need to go !!! when is ocean county going to realize this!!!!
Scott Neuman June 02, 2012 at 07:08 AM
I'm confused about the Freeholders decision to raise taxes while having a 17 million surplus. With many Ocean County residents feeling the blunt of the recession, losing their benefits, and with Ocean County losing small businesses left and right, you'd think a 17 million dollar cushion would be enough to stop a tax increase for 2012/2013. In addition, there is nothing wrong with saving tax dollars for county workers through attrition. But saving an average of $6000.00 means part timers got laid off or their jobs were cut. And we don't know if those jobs needed to be cut but at $6000.00 a person, they wouldn't be getting benefits. It might have been better to keep them and take it out of the $17M surplus. My name is Scott Neuman and I'll be running for Board of Chosen Freeholders in November as an Independent.
MOONPOOL June 14, 2012 at 04:10 AM
it's not the Freeholders wasting money it's the dept.heads not having control over the supervisors who are not quialified to be in the job. The engerieering dept.signal , and paint shops waste around $100,000.00 a month plus in lost time "workers' sit doing nothing in the paint shop when it rains and in winter they sit for 4 calendar months. taking trucks for coffe and lunch. the sigin shop workers are sent out with the work orders that are incomplet or have been done the on other days. In Nov the sigin crew paint crew were sent to the new shop right to do work on the private job site for the onwer of shop rite to get the store open. workers were told" this is a favor to the contractor fom the County Enginering??? that cost the taxpayer 5k in time nice favor??? someone should look in to this! this was hidden from the Freeholders! in the signal shop the supervisor in charge is the father of the Assistant's supervisor {father and son} working together??? i think there is a law that stops this ??? so this lends to the missconduct that goes on in the Enginering dept ! this is were your tax dollars are going down the drain!
I'm gonna guess June 22, 2012 at 09:59 PM
It's not hard to figure out who you are Moonpool................LOL
I'm gonna guess June 22, 2012 at 10:12 PM
I'm gonna say it's not hard to figure out who you are Moonpool........lol
MOONPOOL June 22, 2012 at 10:33 PM
I'm gonna guess ; you should be asking about the favor the County Enginer gave the contractor and owner of the new shop rite in toms river! that cost the taxpayer 5k in time "labor"nice favor. The Freeholders should be asking Questions as to how this favor happend!
MOONPOOL June 22, 2012 at 10:47 PM
i am gonna guess: You as a taxpayer should be trying to figure out why the taxpyer footed the bill on the shop rite job. this was a nice favor the county Enginering dept gave to the onwer and contractor??? the Freeholders should be asking why 11 county workers were on a private job site? on a state road (RT 9)???? nice favor the county engeriner gave to someone! With taxpayer money!
I'm gonna guess June 23, 2012 at 12:27 PM
I'm gonna guess you are no longer working there.

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