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Changes in Monmouth County budget eliminate proposed tax increase for 2021

The Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners has announced that the 2021 county budget will not, as initially proposed, contain a $6.1 million increase in the tax levy to be paid by the county’s residential and commercial property owners.

On Feb. 11, the commissioners introduced a $453 million budget to fund the operation of the county in 2021. The budget included a tax levy of $317.6 million and represented a $6.1 million increase from the 2020 tax levy of $311.5 million.

The budget was not adopted and professionals in the Finance Department continued to evaluate the projected revenues and appropriations.

During a meeting on May 13, an amendment to the budget was introduced and passed by Director Thomas Arnone, Deputy Director Susan Kiley and commissioners Ross Licitra, Nick DiRocco and Lillian Burry.

The bottom line for Monmouth County’s property owners is that instead of increasing from $311.5 million to $317.6 million, the tax levy will remain stable at $311.5 million for 2021.

The amendment passed by the commissioners lowers the total appropriations for 2021 from the introduced amount of $453 million to $452.65 million.

The amendment will have a public hearing at the commissioners’ May 27 meeting and following that, the amended budget will be placed up for adoption.

The exact amount a property owner will pay in county taxes during 2021 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/her municipality and the assessed value of his/her property.

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

In a May 13 presentation to the commissioners and members of the public, Director of Finance Craig R. Marshall described how his staff reviewed the budget and changed some of the revenue projections and appropriations to come up with a lower overall budget from the spending plan that was introduced in February and a flat tax levy.

Marshall said the proposed increase in the tax levy was eliminated without using federal COVID-19 recovery funds Monmouth County expects to receive. In one significant change, county officials will increase the amount of surplus funds (savings) to be used as revenue in the budget from the initial proposal of $33.5 million to an amended amount of $36.375 million.

Marshall described other changes in revenue that helped to eliminate the $6.1 million increase in the tax levy.

One change that was noted on the appropriations side is a reduction in the 2021 budgeted amount for the county commissioners’ salaries and wages. That line item will be reduced from an initial appropriation of $179,845 to an amended appropriation of $151,000.

Other reductions in appropriations will be made in certain statutory expenditures, specifically payments to pension systems, Marshall said, adding that state officials had already approved the budget amendment.

Following Marshall’s remarks, Arnone said, “We came together during this time of a pandemic to make it affordable for people to survive. In 10 years, we have reduced our total budget from $493 million to $452 million and I’ll challenge anyone to say that services have not gotten better in that time.”

Arnone thanked Marshall and his staff, and Monmouth County Administrator Teri O’Connor and her staff for their efforts to review the budget following its introduction and for finding a way to eliminate the increase in the tax levy.

DiRocco said, “The most important thing we can do as public officials is to prudently manage tax dollars and this budget does that.”

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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