Freeholders Introduce Lean Budget

mirror-condensed-dollar-signMIDDLESEX COUNTY – The freeholders introduced a $392 million budget last week which is nearly $5 million lower than the county’s 2008 spending plan.

Due to the slumping economy, the county will need to raise more money through taxes. The freeholders have cut nearly $10 million from the original spending plan unveiled in March, keeping the tax increase to the 2.5 percent allowed by state law.

“Since unveiling a budget plan in January, the Board of Chosen Freeholders and Middlesex County department heads have aggressively cut operating expenses and salaries and wages to ensure taxpayers receive quality programs and services at prices they can afford,” Freeholder Director Stephen Dalina said.

“We have reduced salaries and wages by freezing all vacant positions, eliminating positions through attrition, reducing overtime and freezing 2009 salaries for all employees – union and non-union,” Deputy Freeholder Director Christopher Rafano said.

The freeholders are also looking for new ways to generate revenue and promote efficiency. Among plans being considered:

• The county is aggressively pursuing a program to build cell towers on county-owned land and opportunities to lease additional space to private and public entities. The project is projected to produce an annual savings of $528,000 in telecommunications operating expenses and generate at least $500,000 in revenue annually from space rental.

• The county will develop a long-term strategy for the planning and utilization of county-owned and -leased properties to look at methods and procedures to reduce the cost of the day-to-day operations of county business.

• The county is conducting energy audits of county buildings and has implemented energy savings education of staff.

A public hearing will be held on the 2009 budget at 7 p.m. April 13 in the freeholders meeting room at 75 Bayard St., New Brunswick. The freeholders hope to adopt the budget following the hearing.

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