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Monmouth County commissioners adopt 2021 county budget

The Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners has adopted a $452.65 million budget to fund the operation of the county during 2021.

Commissioner Director Thomas Arnone, Deputy Director Susan Kiley and commissioners Lillian Burry, Nick DiRocco and Ross Licitra voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the budget during a meeting on May 27 in Freehold Borough.

The commissioners’ vote to adopt the budget concluded a process that began in February.

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 that represented a $6.1 million increase from the 2020 tax levy of $311.5 million.

During the weeks that followed the budget’s introduction, professionals in the county’s Finance Department continued to evaluate the projected revenues and appropriations for 2021, according to the commissioners.

On May 13, the budget was amended to reflect lower appropriations and no increase in the tax levy. Instead of increasing from $311.5 million to $317.6 million, the tax levy will remain stable at $311.5 million for 2021. The total appropriations for 2021 were reduced from the introduced amount of $453 million to the adopted amount of $452.65 million.

“I am very happy we were able to amend the county’s 2021 budget to eliminate the $6.1 million tax increase that was originally included when the budget was introduced in February,” Arnone said following the budget’s adoption.

“I commend my fellow commissioners for coming together and making the necessary adjustments to make government more affordable for our residents.

“I also would like to thank our county administration and staff, because the fact that we can do this without sacrificing the excellent level of services we provide to our residents is a testament to their hard work and dedication,” he said.

“The board continues to take a conservative approach to budgeting and to focus on long-term planning,” said DiRocco, who is the liaison to the Department of Finance. “The 2021 county budget is a sound financial plan which will enable the county to provide the important public services our residents need and expect, while holding the line on taxes during this unprecedented time.”

“It is also important to note the 2021 county budget allows the county to continue to safely and effectively respond to the ongoing challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kiley said.

County officials said the 2021 spending plan reflects operational savings of approximately $5.5 million in healthcare costs, liability insurance, workers compensation and capital improvements.

Over the last 11 years, the county’s budget has decreased by $40.75 million from a peak of $493.4 million in 2010 to the current $452.65 million spending plan in 2021.

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.

Director of Finance Craig R. Marshall previously said the proposed $6.1 million increase in the tax levy for 2021 was eliminated without using federal COVID-19 recovery funds Monmouth County will receive.

In one significant change, Marshall said county officials increased the amount of surplus funds (savings) to be used as revenue in the 2021 budget from an initial proposal of $33.5 million to an amended amount of $36.375 million.

Reductions in appropriations were made in certain statutory expenditures, specifically payments to pension systems, he said.

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.

The county’s estimated population on July 1, 2019 was 618,795 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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