Morris County Commissioners Introduce 2021 Budget With No Tax Increase
Published on February 24, 2021
Balanced Spending Plan Funds Critical Programs, Maintains Reserves for Pandemic Impacts
The Morris County Board of County Commissioners unanimously introduced the county government’s 2021 Budget tonight, maintaining spending on critical infrastructure projects, human services and public safety while building reserves for unforeseen impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with no county tax increase for existing taxpayers.
The proposed $320 million budget directs $38.6 million toward educational, cultural and economic initiatives outlined by the Board of Commissioners to serve all Morris County municipalities, and includes a $35.8 million Capital Spending Plan.
“The pandemic has been straining family budgets in Morris County for almost a year. We were determined to bring in a county budget that did not increase the tax burden on our existing taxpayers. But we also remained focused on maintaining the programs, services and infrastructure improvements that our residents have come to rely upon in Morris County, and the result is this stable, fiscally responsible spending plan for 2021,” said Commissioner Deborah Smith, Chair of the Board’s Budget Committee.
Morris County’s new budget anticipates ending the year with a strong fund balance to insure reserves are stable going into a year when the pandemic may cause uncertain economic trends.
“With rating agencies often recommending reserves equal to one or two months of operating expenses, the budget supports an expectation Morris County will be able to continue the AAA bond rating it has held for the past 45 years. Maintaining the highest rating for fiscal responsibility possible has enabled Morris County to borrow funding needed in the past for critical projects at rates that save millions of dollars for taxpayers,” said Commissioner Kathryn DeFillippo, a Budget Committee member.
“This is a structurally sound budget that allows us to continue our effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including our extensive operations at the Morris County Regional COVID-19 Vaccination Center, while addressing our responsibility to maintain our infrastructure and serve the county’s public safety, human services and educational needs,” said Commissioner John Krickus, another member of the Budget Committee.
Critical Community Investments
The County College of Morris, the Morris County Vocational School District, the Rutgers Cooperative Extension and the Morris County Office of the Superintendent of Schools will be supported by $18.8 million in spending in the new budget. Other program investments include:
- $13.4 million dedicated to the 20,100-acre Morris County Park Commission system.
- $5.8M for the Morris County Library and Heritage Commission
- $591K for Economic Development and Tourism
The budget includes a $35.8 million Capital Spending Plan for 2021, offset by $11 million in grants, and it dedicates $4.9 million toward bridge and culvert projects, as well as $9.5 million for 28 miles of roadway resurfacing in 19 towns.
A few of the planned road improvement projects include:
- Boonton Avenue in Montville Township
- Green Pond Road in Rockaway Township
- Lincoln Park Road/Oak Road in Pequannock Township
- Bartley Road/Bartley Chester Road in Washington and Mt. Olive townships
To take advantage of favorable interest rates available in 2020, Morris County expedited the 9-1-1 Communications Center upgrades. The $26 million project will upgrade and double the operating capacity of the county’s emergency radio network and infrastructure, which is used by all Morris County law enforcement, emergency management and municipal first responders every day.
The 2021 Budget anticipates a continuation of Morris County’s dedicated response to the virus outbreak, including:
- Operating a COVID-19 testing facility at the County College of Morris
- Staffing and operating the Morris County COVID-19 Regional Vaccination Center at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall, where more than 2,400 vaccinations will be delivered per day when vaccine supplies increase in New Jersey
- Expanding Emergency Management and Public Health resources to maintain Morris County’s response to an unpredictable virus outbreak
The Morris County Commissioners will consider adoption of their operating budget at a public meeting to be held March 24, 2021 at 7:05 p.m.
View PowerPoint presentations of the proposed 2021 operating and capital budgets here.(PDF, 4MB)