County Gets Ready to Adapt $413 Million Budget; Lower than 2014 with help of Grant

ocean county tlsWith state approval and the insertion of almost $6.7 million from an essential services grant, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders is preparing to move forward with adopting the 2015 County budget.

“We have been told by the state we can now move ahead with the budget,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the County’s Finance Department. “We could not adopt this budget until we received approval from the state and confirmation of the Community Development Block Grant of $6.7 million.”

The grant is being provided to Ocean County as part of continued Superstorm Sandy funding. This is the last year the County anticipates the emergency grant funding.

Bartlett said the freeholders will introduce a resolution amending the proposed 2015 spending package at their June 17 Board meeting. A public hearing on the amendment is scheduled for July 1 and adoption of the budget is expected to follow.

As a result of additional grant funding received since the introduction of the budget, the 2015 county budget now totals $413 million.

Bartlett noted that the 2014 budget totaled $436 million.

“We are not taking credit for reducing the spending package by $23 million from 2014. That decrease is related to grant money that has flowed in and out of the budget in particular from Superstorm Sandy aid,” Bartlett said.

The 2015 budget is supported by a county tax rate of 35 cents per $100 of assessed property value, up just under 1 cent.

In providing its grant approval, the state Department of Community Affairs, in a letter to the County noted the county’s proposed budget advances financial stability by seeking, where possible, to adjust local revenues, including the levy, upward to sustainable levels. In addition, the state noted the surplus, which totals about $36.4 million, is at a reasonable level.

The DCA also stated that the County has advanced reasonable efforts to constrain personnel costs through continued staffing efficiencies and the general limiting of salary increases to 1.5 percent.

And, while the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy is still being felt in the County’s financial picture, the state commended the Board of Freeholders for its effort of sharing services following the storm.

“The County provided debris removal services to its smaller municipal constituencies – a unique endeavor among the Sandy-impacted counties,” the DCA said.

Bartlett said Ocean County continues to move forward from the damages left in the wake of Superstorm Sandy which devastated areas on Oct. 29, 2012. The budget includes a repayment of $2 million from Sandy emergency funding.

“While we are certainly seeing things improve, we know we have a distance to travel yet,” Bartlett said.

He said the County’s ratables are down by $17.5 billion or 16 percent since 2009.

“We have turned the corner though with a $1.6 billion increase over 2014,” Bartlett said. “Most of this is from the rebuilding of new homes after the storm.”


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