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Monmouth County commissioners delay adoption of budget; eye possible tax relief

With the possibility that a proposed tax increase on Monmouth County property owners could be reduced, the members of the Board of County Commissioners have decided to hold off on the adoption of the 2021 budget.

On Feb. 11, the commissioners introduced a $453 million budget to fund the operation of the county in 2021. The budget includes a tax levy of $317.6 million to be paid by residential and commercial property owners.

That projected tax levy represents a $6.1 million increase from the 2020 tax levy of $311.5 million.

The 2021 budget was scheduled for adoption by the commissioners on March 25.

However, during the workshop session that preceded the board’s regular meeting, Director Thomas Arnone said the commissioners would hold off on adopting the budget after receiving information which indicates funds the county will receive from a $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill may be able to be put toward relief for taxpayers.

President Joseph Biden signed the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill into law on the afternoon of March 25 as the county commissioners were meeting.

Arnone said county officials expect to receive funding through this latest legislation. He said funds from the first federal stimulus bill that was signed by President Donald Trump during the coronavirus pandemic was used to support Monmouth County businesses, the arts and education. Arnone said it is time to consider using the next round of federal funds for taxpayer relief.

“This board has decided to pull back and hold off (on adopting the budget) until the end of the month,” Arnone said during a live-stream of the commissioners’ meeting. “Hopefully we will be able to give some relief to the taxpayers.”

The move to delay the budget’s adoption was supported by Arnone and commissioners Ross Licitra, Nick DiRocco, Lillian Burry and Deputy Director Susan Kiley.

“It makes sense from a prudent budgeting perspective” to wait until the commissioners  have clarity on how the county’s share of the stimulus package may be used, DiRocco said.

Officials did not say how much money Monmouth County may receive from the $1.9 trillion package.

Once the 2021 budget has been adopted, the financial impact of the budget on a property owner’s tax bill will not be known until a county tax rate has been determined for each of the county’s 53 municipalities.

The county taxes a property owner pays will be determined by the county tax rate that is established for his municipality and the assessed value of his property.

County taxes are one item on a property owner’s overall tax bill, which also includes municipal taxes, school taxes and other assessments.

Monmouth County’s budget covers the cost of providing maintenance for 1,000 lane miles of roads, more than 900 bridges, 17,000 acres of county parks, emergency management, 911 communications, law enforcement through the prosecutor’s office and the sheriff’s office, elections, deed recording and passport services in the county clerk’s office, probate and adoptions through the surrogate’s office, and more, according to county officials.

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