Gloucester County Reorganizes for 2010 Shrinking the Size of Government and Holding the Tax Rate Will Be Top Priorities for the Year
(Woodbury, NJ) - Gloucester County held its 324th Annual Reorganization meeting on Saturday, January 2, 2010. Freeholder Robert M. Damminger and Freeholder Giuseppe (Joe) Chila took the Oath of Office to begin their three-year terms on the Board of Chosen Freeholders and Carmel M. Morina was sworn-in as Sheriff. Freeholder Stephen M. Sweeney was sworn-in as Freeholder Director and Freeholder Robert M. Damminger was sworn-in as Deputy Director.
"Based on the economy alone, 2010 will present its fair share of challenges. Regardless, this Freeholder Board is committed to holding the tax rate steady again. As a government, we have a responsibility and a moral obligation to spend the publics' money efficiently, prudently and in a way that improves their lives" stated Freeholder Director Stephen M. Sweeney.
Sweeney said that holding the line on the county tax rate is essential to the taxpayers and stability is a key reason that business and industry choose to maintain, expand or locate to a region.
Sweeney said, "There will be no easy solutions or quick fixes to holding the tax rate at the same level it was in the year 2000. It can only be accomplished by making our government smaller. Since we began to shrink the size of government we have eliminated over 100 positions, saving $5.9 million in salaries and benefits."
Sweeney said the county will look to attrition at least another 20 positions saving another $1 million in salaries and benefits in 2010. "When someone retires from the county we have not filled the position unless it is an in area critical to public safety or health. The County's budget will be lean, but the Freeholders are determined not ask the taxpayers for more," the Director said.
"Focusing on more shared services and regionalization is an area we will continue to pursue," said Director Sweeney, "We are looking within our own institutions and coming up with big picture savings." Gloucester County has shared service agreements in place with its agencies: Gloucester County College, Gloucester County Institute of Technology, Gloucester County Special Services District, the County Library, Gloucester County Utilities Authority and the Gloucester County Improvement Authority.
Sweeney explained that since the county began to share services with its agencies a year ago, it has been able to save $1 million. "By moving forward with additional shared services in the areas of purchasing, joint insurance, human resources, security and other administrative functions, we can identify another $1 million annually in savings. This savings enables the County to keep the tax rate stable without jeopardizing critical county functions," said Sweeney.
Freeholder Joseph A. Brigandi Jr. said that the county will also work with its municipalities to save money. "The county has also negotiated a ten-year contract for solid waste disposal that will collectively save the towns over $1 million a year," said Freeholder Brigandi. "The Freeholders are always seeking ways we can assist the municipalities to save. If the county can help save money through regionalization or shared services we will take the lead," said Brigandi.
"The county will continue to focus on economic development and education in 2010," said Brigandi. "Private industry gives serious consideration when citing facilities to areas that have a stable tax base and are well located. Gloucester County has both of those factors, as well as a well-trained work force and an educational infrastructure. We are geared up to be at the forefront of our nations' economic recovery," said Brigandi. Brigandi also pointed to the Port of Paulsboro and a potential future port in Greenwich as sources for new, good paying jobs. "We will work at job creation from all angles in 2010," Brigandi said.
Freeholder Jean DuBois stated that county regionalized EMS saved the participating towns $2.8 million in avoided costs in 2009. Freeholder DuBois said that important public safety and health programs would also be a priority in 2010. "Public safety and health will not be compromised," said Freeholder DuBois, Liaison to the Department of Health and Senior Services and Department of Emergency Response.
"We realize that in this economy we have many residents without health insurance and that means many families are not getting the health services they need. The county offers a free program to every resident that provides a discount on prescription drug costs, vision for eye exams, and discounts on hearing and diabetic savings programs," said DuBois. "We know that the flu immunizations we provide to over 20,000 residents is an investment in the health of the county and we will do what we have to so we can continue to offer programs that can literally save lives," Freeholder DuBois stated.
The Freeholders said that in 2010 a new expansion to the Gloucester County Institute of Technology will allow for 125 seats for career-technical students to be phased in and the Academy High School at GCIT will provide a minimum 30 college credits from GCC.
In 2010 the county will continue the Route 322 Bypass. A spring ground breaking for the third phase of the Route 322 Mullica Hill Bypass is planned. This phase includes realigning Walters Road and Clems Run Road.
The county also plans on replacing four bridges in 2010 and is working on the design for repair or replacement of two more. After these bridges are completed, Gloucester County will be the only county in New Jersey to have a complete inventory of structurally sound bridges.
In the fall, the expansion of the Gloucester County Justice Complex will be completed. The expansion and renovation of the Justice Complex will consist of adequate space for Jury Assembly and administrative offices for Family Division, Finance Division and Criminal Division Courts on the first floor. The second floor offices will have four courtrooms and four judges' chambers, conference rooms, juvenile intake and a law library. The Third Floor will consist of five courtrooms, five judges' chambers and a jury deliberation room for grand jurors. The basement will have Sheriff's offices, a holding area, IT offices and judges parking. The first floor will also feature the Wall of Heroes', a tribute to honor county men and women who were killed in action while serving in the military.