Middlesex County is doubling down on its commitment to its residents with programs and initiatives specifically focused on revitalizing its education system, continuing to build programs centered around the health and wellness of residents, and ensuring Middlesex County is the best place to live, work and play for all.
This year’s State of the County address was held in person for the first time in two years at the Carteret Performing Arts Center on April 5, with more than 200 county residents, business leaders, students and government officials in attendance.
“Middlesex County has been on a transformative journey over the last decade centered on making strategic business decisions to improve our overall fiscal health and investing in the vital services we provide our residents, all laddering up to our Destination 2040 master plan,” said Ronald G. Rios, director of the Board of County Commissioners, according to a statement released by the county. “At our core, Middlesex County is committed to making decisions that enable us to offer services and launch programs that have a lasting impact on those who call and will call Middlesex County home.”
Rios shared that despite the pandemic and the economic challenges of the past two years, it grew its surplus fund to nearly $89 million and decreased its debt by more than $10 million. This surplus, combined with the county’s receipt of the coveted AAA bond rating from Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings, reaffirms the county’s robust fiscal health, according to the statement.
Additionally, during the address, Rios highlighted how the county plans to leverage key partnerships and funds to support essential services while also investing millions in capital projects including performing arts centers, parks, recreation, and open space this year, according to the statement.
While the overall physical and mental health and well-being of Middlesex County residents continues to be at the forefront, the county will be focusing on sound business strategies meant to expand career and job opportunities. Rios highlighted how aligning both Middlesex College and the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools is a critical part in strengthening the future workforce in all industries, especially the life sciences, autonomous technology, and food innovation industries.
“One example of these entities leading together can be seen in the progress being made in our partnership with the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and the newly named Jack & Sheryl Morris Cancer Center. Middlesex College President Mark McCormick and his team have been working closely with the leadership of the Cancer Institute to build a pipeline of students who will have access to opportunities from internships to full-time jobs at the Cancer Center,” Rios said in the statement.
In addition to building more shared programming between the two education institutions, Middlesex County plans to announce major infrastructure changes to Middlesex College, including the addition of new physical structures which will bring academic, recreational, and community opportunities to the campus by the end of the year, according to the statement.
With the well-being of Middlesex County communities at the forefront, Rios also explained how the county will work to improve the overall quality of life by investing in renewable energy technologies, as well as collaborate with mayors and municipal stakeholders to improve safety for residents with the Vision Zero initiative, according to the statement.
“To make our roads and communities safer for all drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, the county’s Department of Transportation will be launching an initiative called Vison Zero, which is aimed at reducing the number and severity of motor vehicle crashes throughout Middlesex County,” Rios said in the statement. “We are the first county in New Jersey to develop such a plan and will be positioned alongside other leading counties and cities around the world that have demonstrated a commitment to greatly reduce all ‘preventable’ traffic deaths and serious injuries.”
Focusing on building a better future, Rios reaffirmed the board’s commitment to ensuring Middlesex County is a place where diversity, equity, and inclusion all truly come together.
“As we discussed during our reorganization meeting in January, to help guide us in this area, my colleagues and I will be creating an office within the county’s organizational structure, dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging to help guide the county in identifying opportunities to shape policies and operations that will sharpen our focus on these crucial principles,” Rios said in the statement. “To that end, I am pleased to announce that Middlesex County will partner with a firm to perform an evaluation of the county’s internal and external functions, policies and programs. This firm will issue a report of recommendations to the county regarding any relevant compliance areas and strategies to be implemented to better incorporate the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging into the county.”