Middlesex County Introduces Budget

MIDDLESEX COUNTY – The Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders last night formally introduced the county’s 2012 Operating Budget.

The budget plan carries a $1 million decrease in spending from 2011 and a $2 million decrease in spending from 2010. The 2012 plan reflects a savings of more than $5 million in salary and operating expenses, which helped the county to offset increases in mandated expenses, such as mental health costs and medical services. This was achieved through the operational restructuring efforts, reducing the number of departments from 28 to five.

“The budget we introduce tonight is $1.47 million dollars under the state mandated cap,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Ronald G. Rios, chair of the Administration Committee. “With it, we will continue our tradition of offering the second-lowest per capita cost of county government in the state.”

Rios said that to ensure that Middlesex County retains its Triple A bond rating, the county is eliminating the reliance on surplus funds to balance the 2012 Operating Budget.

“We are one of only 67 counties out of the 3,140 in the nation that has a Triple A rating, underscoring our sound financial practices. We are proud of this achievement,” he said.

Freeholder Director Christopher D. Rafano said the board worked closely with the Finance and Administration Committees and all department heads and office directors to complete a line-item by line-item review between September and December. In doing so, more than $10.1 million in spending was cut from what was originally requested in August, when this budget process began.

“The 2012 budget proposal before you tonight also is the result of this board’s commitment to finding new revenue sources and cutting all expenses under our control,” Rafano said.

The county, he said, will begin to realize millions of dollars in energy savings over the next year as its solar projects at the Apple Orchard Lane complex in North Brunswick and the county college come on line.

The county already is benefiting from an arrangement with Union County to explore shared health services because the two counties are sharing the salary and benefits costs for one health officer.

The county also is continuing its commitment to retire debt, before taking on new debt, lowering interest payments and enabling it to complete needed infrastructure improvements so that county roads, bridges and facilities remain in top condition.

“This 2012 Operating Budget proposal truly puts our residents first by providing quality services at a cost they can afford,” Rafano said. “It is the product of a Freeholder Board that is dedicated to cutting the size and cost of county government, to utilizing new technology to increase productivity and to fostering partnerships that deliver cost savings or generate revenue to lessen the burden on our taxpayers.”

Rafano and Rios recognized the County’s Chief Financial Officer Albert Kuchinskas and his staff for their work throughout the budget process.

A Public Hearing and the possible adoption of the 2012 plan are scheduled for Feb. 23.

“To summarize,” Rios said, “this budget is $1 million less than the 2011 budget. It is under the state-mandated cap by $1.47 million and it ensures that we retain our Triple A bond rating. We are proud of these accomplishments.”

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