TOMS RIVER – The Ocean County Board of Commissioners plan to introduce a $480 million budget on Wednesday that will come with a one-cent reduction in the county tax rate.
County government leaders offered an overview of the 2022 budget at an agenda meeting of the commission last week.
The proposed tax rate is 32.2 cents. Because New Jersey uses an “equalized tax rate” to apportion the cost of county government on a municipality based on the wealth of its taxable real estate, the impact of the county tax levy affects each of Ocean County’s 33 towns differently.
The budget is up $9.5 million from last year with the amount to be raised by taxation representing $387 million or almost 81% of its total amount. The county expects to collect more than $22 million in taxes than it did last year.
New courthouse annex planned: $70 million Ocean County Justice Complex addition authorized despite price ballooning
The budget is to fund all existing county services and make $51.5 million in revenue available for its capital improvement fund. About $38.5 million or 8% is to be held in reserve as surplus this year.
Capital improvement expenses are up 1.6% over last year and include appropriations for 35 projects that are to begin in 2022 and will cost $106 million. This includes federal and state aid, as well as money that will be bonded. The county allocates funds for its long term projects based on what each is expected to cost from year-to-year.
Anticipated capital projects this year include:
- Construction of a new county library on Route 9 in Stafford at a cost of $11.5 million.
- Expansion and improvement of the Ocean County Vocational Technical School on Toms River Road in Jackson at a cost of $10 million.
- Reconstruction of East County Line Road (Phase 4) in Lakewood at a cost of $2.5 million.
- Replacement of Duck Farm Bridge on Hooper Avenue in Brick at a cost of $4 million.
- Traffic signal optimization in various municipalities at a cost of $2 million.
About $25 million in capital funding will be set aside in the budget to help pay for construction projects as needed for stormwater management and drainage upgrades, as well as renovations to county parks and county buildings.
Operating expenses are projected to go down 1.65% this year, all according to the presentation given to the commissioners last Wednesday.
Furious Commissioner Vicari: ‘It’s a disgrace,’ he declares after he accuses colleagues of trying to silence him
Commissioner Jack Kelly, the director of the board who is also co-liaison to the county Department of Finance, said the county’s tax base was valued at $120.2 billion in 2022. The figure represents a full restoration of the losses sustained in the subprime mortgage crisis of the late 2000s and the destruction wrought by superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The value of all taxable real estate in Ocean County had reached a milestone one year ago when it surpassed $110 billion for the first time in its history, surpassing the last record of $109.9 billion set just before the 2007 and 2008 financial crisis.
“We were already in a semi-depression at that time and the tax base was shrinking” when Sandy hit, Kelly said. “But once the damage caused by superstorm Sandy came in, that was the biggest impact on the tax base.”
Commissioner Gary Quinn, who is co-liaison to the Finance Department with Kelly, said the budget includes millions of dollars in operating funds for:
- Ocean County College: $16.6 million.
- Ocean County Vocational Technical School District: $20.7 million.
- Engineering (roads and bridges): $24 million.
- Law and public safety: $78.4 million.
- Social Services: $19.3 million (federal and state fund additional $40.2 million).
- Veterans Services: $694,003.
- Senior Services: $4.1 million (federal and state fund additional $4.4 million).
- Public transportation (Ocean Ride): $3.5 million (federal and state fund additional $1.6 million).
- Parks and Recreation: $7.9 million.
The formal introduction of the budget will take place at 4 p.m. Wednesday. A public hearing and the budget adoption is scheduled for 4 p.m. on April 6. Both actions will take place at regular commission sessions in the first floor public meeting room of the Ocean County Administration Building at 101 Hooper Avenue in downtown Toms River.
Erik Larsen: 732-682-9359 or [email protected]