NEW BRUNSWICK – County officials introduced a $405 million budget Thursday night. The spending plan requires $320 million in taxes and adds one penny to the tax rate.
“The county still faces the daunting task of contending with increased costs and revenue losses that are out of our control,” said Freeholder Director Christopher Rafano before introducing the budget. “The county must absorb $3.3 million in increased pension costs, $1.5 million reductions in state aid for critical mental health care and a $2 million loss in fees the state pays for holding its inmates at our corrections facility. At the same time, the county is faced with a $1.5 million decrease in our traditional revenue sources from county clerk’s fees and interest income because of the stalled economy.
According to Rafano, the budget reflects the reduction of 150 positions which will reduce salaries and wages by $7.3 million dollars. The county also plans to reduce overtime costs and freeze all non-essential hiring and eliminate vacant positions where appropriate.
The freeholder director noted that the county is in the process of signing a 10-year shared services agreement with Mercer County for Youth Services. This is expected to generate $1.38 million dollars a year in new revenue. Rafano also said that the county will continue to pursue shared services agreements with other federal, state and county officials that have expressed interest in using Middlesex County’s Adult Corrections and Youth Services facilities.
A public hearing on the budget proposal was tentatively planned for 7 p.m. on Feb. 24 in the Freeholders’ 2011 meeting schedule.
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