After cutting $17.1 million in spending, Burlington County freeholders reduced the county tax rate for the 22nd year in a row.
Freeholders adopted a $199.8 million budget Wednesday that cuts the amount of tax dollars needed to run county government by $6.2 million, making this the fifth year in a row the tax levy has been reduced.
Since 2007, taxes have been cut a total of $14.7 million and spending has been reduced by $26.8 million for the same period. This year’s budget calls for a cut in the county tax rate from 30.96¢ per $100 of equalized valuation to 30.91¢.
“These multimillion dollar reductions in taxes and spending did not come easily but, once again, they come at a time when they are needed most,” said Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio. “Let the record reflect that county government has responded to residents and taxpayers who are still struggling to get by in a difficult economic environment.”
He added, “At the same time, this budget sends a powerful message to current and prospective businesses, and our residents who are looking for employment: We are doing everything possible to instill a favorable tax policy, to enhance economic growth, and to create jobs.”
Garganio said the tax savings have been realized despite an estimate shortfall of $15 million when budget planning began months ago.
Major reductions in health benefits costs of more than $4 million, the outsourcing of the county’s transportation services, continued freezes in salary and wages for non-union personnel, and in hiring, and the sale of Buttonwood Hospital all factored into the final budget document.
“The reality is that you will find significant cuts in most departments and most line items, but core programs and services remain intact,” Garganio said.
The 2012 budget is well within both the appropriation cap and tax levy cap imposed by the state. The amount to be raised by taxation is nearly $9.6 million less than the amount permitted by law.
Garganio noted that declining tax ratables—from $50 billion to $48.2 billion—factored heavily into the budget shortfall. He said an additional decline in ratables is expected in 2013.
“We’re already crunching numbers for the next budget year,” he said. “It’s not going to get any easier.”
Courtesy of the Public Information Office of Burlington County