Open Government

Learn About the Budget

Interested in how county budgets work? Get more information:

Budgets & Property Taxes

The county budget and expenditures are regulated by New Jersey statutes, and regulations enacted by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

About the State Budget Format

All county budgets are prepared and adopted using the same format. The format is determined by the NJ Local Finance Board, Division of Local Government Services

State Budget Format

  • Budget Notice: Page 2
  • Explanatory Statement: Pages 3 – 3b(2)
  • Anticipated Revenues: Pages 4 – 9
  • Appropriations: Pages 10-34
  • Appendix to Budget Statement: Page 38
  • Capital Budget: Pages 39 –
    • Current Year: Pages 39b-1 to 39b-3
    • Six Year Plan: Pages 39c-1 to 39c-3
    • Six Year Funding Source Estimates: Pages 39d-1 to 39d-3
  • Open Space Trust Fund: Page 42

About Property Taxes

The NJ State League of Municipalities has information on its website about property taxes. While the League’s focus is municipal government, these articles provide a good overview for NJ taxpayers:

Capital Budgets

In NJ, a capital budget does not appropriate or authorize the expenditure of any funds. New Jersey’s “Local Budget Law” requires each county to adopt a capital plan each year. Morris County’s capital plan focuses on public safety, education, and infrastructure projects. Morris County’s capital plan anticipates future needs but does not fund them.

The six-year capital plan, as a policy and priority document, is voted on by the Commissioners. It is formally adopted again, each year, by a vote of the Commissioners when they adopt the annual budget. To fund capital projects, Commissioners vote to introduce capital ordinances at a public meeting. A notice of the public hearing on an ordinance is published in the newspaper. The public hearing is held, after which the Commissioners vote on to adopt (or not) that ordinance. Only then, after input from the public and multiple Commissioner votes, can capital projects move forward.

AAA Bond Rating

Out of 3,068 counties nationwide, Morris County is one of only 35 counties that holds the prestigious, and taxpayer beneficial, AAA bond rating. Financial risk is a significant factor in determining interest rates when local governments need to borrow money for needed capital projects. When a person buys a new home, the mortgage interest rate will be lower for those with higher credit scores. A lower mortgage interest rate translates to less total interest paid over the life of the loan. Bond ratings for government operate the same way. A higher bond rating means less interest over the life of the bond, or borrowing, for the local government.

Why a AAA bond rating is important for Morris County

  • AAA is the highest rating possible.
  • AAA means Morris County is financially strong and will be able to pay its debt.
  • AAA encourages investors to buy our bonds and to invest in Morris County. AAA means their investment is safe.
  • AAA bond ratings results in lower interest rates for borrowing.
  • Lower borrowing rates mean Morris County taxpayers pay less for necessary capital projects.

Commissioner Facilities Subcommittee

The Commissioner facilities subcommittee meets at least monthly throughout the year, more frequently during capital budget preparation. The committee reviews details of current projects and makes on-site visits, where necessary, to ensure that capital projects are completed in the most efficient and cost effective way possible. It reviews the six-year program and long range project scheduling to maximize efficiencies and effective staff / resource utilization. It reviews and monitors the capital ordinance schedule throughout the year. The facilities subcommittee includes three Commissioners and county administrative staff. Various department heads and staff members are called upon to participate as needed.

View a presentation about how the Capital Budget works.

The Capital Budget Preparation Process

  1. The Commissioners Facilities Committee sets the capital budget target for the upcoming year
  2. Department heads, Constitutional Officers, and agencies submit requests (needs and wants)
  3. County staff prepares a spreadsheet of capital requests for Facilities Committee review
  4. The Facilities Committee reviews and makes recommendations
  5. The Facilities Committee presents the proposed capital budget to the Commissioners Budget Subcommittee
  6. The Facilities Committee presents capital budget to the entire Commissioner Board for approval. Commissioners vote on this.
  7. The capital budget is combined with the operating budget for introduction. A public hearing is held, and a Commissioner vote is taken on the entire budget.
  8. A capital ordinance schedule is developed and approved.
  9. Ordinances are introduced per the schedule for public hearing / adoption. Commissioners vote on these.
  10. The Facilities Committee monitors capital projects and budget throughout the year.
  11. The process begins again for the following year’s capital program

The Importance of Capital Budgeting

  • It enhances the likelihood that Morris County will continue to obtain a AAA bond rating, which results in lowered borrowing costs and savings to Morris County taxpayers.
  • It shows a sound, consistent program of improvement in Morris County, which encourages the investment of private capital.
  • It expands our opportunities to participate in both Federal and State grant programs.
  • It provides an opportunity to evaluate capital projects in light of the county’s ability to pay.
  • It assists in maintaining financial stability by distributing expenditures evenly over a period of time, thus avoiding major fluctuations in the tax rate.
  • It eliminates the need to consider otherwise routine projects on an emergency basis.
  • It avoids conflicts between projects proposed by different agencies.
  • It allows for orderly implementation of the public improvement portion of the comprehensive plan, without the imposition of unreasonable financial burdens.
  • It assures maximum utilization and efficient usage of equipment and other resources through the elimination of scheduling and resource conflicts.
  • It lengthens project lead time, avoiding last minute delays due to design, negotiation, acquisition, or other related matters.

Operating Budget

The county budget and expenditures are regulated by New Jersey statutes, and regulations enacted by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

Commissioner Budget Subcommittee

The Commissioner budget subcommittee meets at least monthly throughout the year, more frequently during budget preparation. The committee analyzes expenditures and adjusts priorities to meet the needs of Morris County. In addition to reviewing expenditure details, it prepares for the coming year, with long-term financial stability as its primary focus. The budget subcommittee includes three Commissioners, the county administrator, assistant county administrator and county treasurer. Other department heads and staff members are called upon to participate as needed.

Calendar Year Budget

Morris County operates on a calendar year budget. Beginning in late July, the various departments set forth what they need in order to operate during the next calendar year. Requests are reviewed by department heads and county administration. A Commissioner budget subcommittee analyzes all requests to ensure the county will meet its obligations and priorities, while maintaining fiscal prudence.

Temporary Budget

Each year, at the Commissioner reorganization meeting in early January, a “temporary” budget is adopted. It allows county government to continue to operate while awaiting certain data for the full-year budget. The “temporary” budget is equivalent to 26.5% of the prior year’s budget. Should the full-year budget not be adopted by the end of March, it could be necessary to increase the “temporary” budget, which would be done at a public meeting by resolution of the Commissioners.

Budget Introduction & Adoption

All county and municipal budgets must be reviewed by, and approved by, the NJ Local Finance Board, Division of Local Government Services, prior to formal introduction.

The full-year budget is introduced at a Commissioner public meeting, typically late in February. A majority of the Commissioners must vote to “introduce” the budget. Once introduced, it is published for public review. Approximately 4 weeks later, at another Commissioner public meeting, a formal public hearing is held at which members of the public can ask questions or make comments about the budget. After considering the public comments, the Commissioners vote to adopt (or not) the budget.

Budget adoption normally takes place in late March and, once adopted, the budget becomes the financial plan for the activities of the year.

How the Operating Budget Works

Each budgetary account is broken down into two categories: Salaries & Wages (S&W) and Other Expenses (OE). The budget will control county government during the year, since transfers cannot be made from one budget account to another before November 1. The process forces county government to carefully project anticipated expenditures.