Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Freeholders' Budget at $504M

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Freeholders' Budget at $504M

Article excerpt

The Bergen County freeholders unveiled a 2014 budget on Thursday that would trim about $6.8 million from the spending plan proposed by County Executive Kathleen Donovan and result in no increase to the county tax rate.

The final budget, to be introduced by the board on Wednesday, calls for nearly $504 million in spending. Besides the $6.8 million in cuts, it includes an additional $712,900 in anticipated revenue compared with Donovan's proposal.

The plan would result in a $117,077 reduction in the county's overall tax levy, meaning that the average homeowner's tax bill would remain close to flat.

"It would be disingenuous to say it's a lot of money," said Freeholder Chairman David Ganz, chairman of the board's budget committee and currently the longest-serving freeholder.

But Ganz said the total cuts are about 10 times greater than the average amount the freeholders have imposed in his 12 years on the board.

"We all think as taxpayers that we're paying too much," Ganz said. By keeping the tax rate close to flat, he said, the budget will provide some relief.

"It's a small amount, but it's a start," he added.

The board's budget committee -- Ganz and Freeholders James Tedesco and John Felice -- released the details of the spending plan late on Thursday afternoon.

Jeanne Baratta, Donovan's chief of staff, said the administration had not yet had an opportunity to review the cuts imposed by the freeholders, who have the final say over the budget.

Donovan proposed a $511 million budget in February that called for a 1.9 percent increase to the county tax rate. That would have meant an annual increase of $6.49 for the owner of a home with the average assessed valuation of $324,200.

The cuts come amid a politically charged election season when control of both the Freeholder Board and the county's executive's office is at stake. …

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