County Introduces Budget with 5.1 cent tax rate decrease The 2006 county tax rate would be lowest since 1967
(Woodbury,NJ)- Gloucester County Freeholder Director Stephen M. Sweeney and Freeholder Deputy Director Bob Damminger introduced the county's 2006 budget today which calls for a 5.1 cent decrease in the county's tax rate over last year; bringing the rate to fifty-five cents.
"This year's budget calls for the lowest tax rate in Gloucester County since 1967, stated Freeholder Director Sweeney."
"Based on our five-year budgeting practices and our six-year capital planning, we are reducing the tax rate this year and we are projecting we will be in the position to reduce the rate again next year," said Freeholder Director Sweeney.
This budget represents fiscal responsibility to our taxpayers and illustrates the successful direction the Freeholders have moved this county in over the past decade. This decrease in the tax rate is a direct reflection on our ability to promote Gloucester County's attributes to business, industry and new residents while preserving our land and improving the quality of life," Director Sweeney said.
"This Freeholder Board realized that we needed to maintain a steady tax rate in order for our economy to succeed. That is why we have been so diligent about stabilizing the tax rate and it is one reason we are among the top ten percent in the nation in job growth. It's good for our residents and good for our commerce," stated Sweeney. Freeholder Director Sweeney noted that a stable tax rate is one of the biggest factors that businesses look to when considering relocating or staying in a region.
Sweeney said, "The County continues to deliver direct tax savings to our municipalities through regionalization of services like 911 dispatching and storm water management, and direct tax savings on education. Through our shared administration of our GCIT and Special Services School District we have been saving taxpayers $1 million annually, and anticipate at least another $1 million in savings per year from the new school for autism we are building."
For example, since the county has taken over 911 dispatching for municipalities, a township like Franklin experiences over $240,000 in salaries and benefits savings, and through the county's Storm Water Management Program, that town will be saved over $1 million, which could have resulted in a 14.1 cent tax increase for Franklin.
"We are not only going to offer the same great services and programs to our residents and municipalities this year, we are going to do even more," said Freeholder Director Sweeney.
Freeholder Director Sweeney said that in addition to the new DREAM Park in Logan, the Bankbridge Development Center (Autism School), and the next phase of renovations to the Courts, the 2006 introduced county operations and capital budgets call for:
- $12 million in capital funding to Gloucester County College and $8 million for operations;
- $6.6 million in funding for the GCIT, representing a $1million increase (GCIT is now a full-time program with no tuition charge); and an additional $4.4 million for renovations;
- $9 million in highway and infrastructure improvements;
- Funding for the purchase of two additional serv-a-tray vans and staff to expand delivery of meals to homebound senior citizens;
- Adding boat and kayak rentals at the county's Scotland Run Park, and a new picnic shelter and other improvements;
- Expanded Park's programming;
- Repairs to the Whitall House at Red Bank Battlefield;
- Improvements at the Pitman Golf Course;
- Community buses;
- Software for law enforcement agencies and computer equipment for the county's 911 dispatching center;
- $4.5 million for road overlays this year that gets the county started on having its 404 miles of county road receive new overlay over the next 20 years; and the county will be reconstructing Wilson Road Bridge over Bells Lake Branch in Washington Township, and also reconstructing its roadway approaches between the Black Horse Pike (State Route 168) and County Route 705 (Woodbury-Turnersville Rd.)
"There are many projects within this budget that will deliver essential services to our citizens and improve the quality of life here," said Freeholder Deputy Director Damminger. "Every improvement we make is done in a planned manner, some speak to education, some to preserving our history, and some to promoting public safety, and they are all important."
Damminger said, "The County is going to be settling on over 20 farms over the next several months, the most we have ever preserved in this time frame. The Freeholders are committed to this program and will continue to purchase farmland easements and open space to maintain the balance between our growth and our agricultural roots."
The 2006 Budget as introduced is $149.7 million. The amount to be raised by taxation is $121.7 million. Under the budget, the county will pay-off a $1.2 million pension loan from 1993 that will save $520,000, and has trimmed costs on other supplies the county uses by $300,000. Although fixed cost for employees healthcare, pension contribution, inmate medical services, utilities, and social services have increased; the county was able to keep the overall spending increase at 4.9 percent.
Freeholder Director Sweeney said that he was proud to introduce this budget and believed it was incumbent upon the county to provide the necessary infrastructure investments, in addition to expanded services and programs to meet the growing population.
"Our population has outpaced forecasts and we are doing much more for our residents than ever before. We operate the county's finances with planning and discipline just as our taxpayers manage their own budgets," concluded Sweeney.