OCEAN COUNTY – Members of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners recently introduced its county spending plan for 2023.
“This budget continues our conservative and disciplined approach to spending,” said Commissioner John Kelly during a meeting earlier this month.
This year’s budget totals $552,420,663, an increase of $72.5 million from the 2022 budget. Kelly explained that the budget total includes a $25.4 million allocation from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and also an increase in the amount of federal and state grants the County is receiving.
He added, “while this money is reflected in the budget, it does not affect the budget since it is money distributed after it is received.”
The spending plan will fund all essential county services including programs for seniors – home delivered meals and outreach – veterans and human services totaling $8,797,021; funding for Ocean County College, $17,318,896, and the Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools, $21,746,628; road improvements that provide safety upgrades for drivers and pedestrians, $44,300,000 in capital; social services programs, $19,326,691; parks and recreation, $8,659,444; transportation programs including Ocean Ride, $3,787,036; and law and public safety including the Sheriff’s Department, Prosecutor’s Office, Juvenile Services and Department of Corrections, $81,925,331.
“These programs have a direct effect on our residents. Ocean County is prepared to serve everyone that lives here with the best services possible. The county property tax rate is the lowest it has been in 10 years, and this is the seventh consecutive year that the county property tax rate has decreased,” Kelly added.
Under the budget, the County property tax rate is down by 2 cents, bringing the rate to 30.2 cents per $100 of equalized property value. The amount to be raised by taxation is $428,681,650 and the amount of surplus used to support the budget is $38,500,000. The 2023 ratable base is $141.9 billion.
The ratable base is the total assessment of all property. As development increases, the tax rate generally decreases.
“This budget also allows us to maintain our AAA bond rating which helps us achieve our long term economic goals,” Kelly said.
A bond rating is like a credit score for government.
Commissioner Gary Quinn, a co-chair of the Ocean County Finance Department, noted that the budget is a document that is worked on throughout the year.
“It’s important we set priorities and keep those within the financial framework of this budget allowing us to keep Ocean County affordable for our residents, many of whom are retirees on fixed incomes, but to also provide quality programs and services. Our annual budget has an impact on the almost 650,000 people that call Ocean County home,” Quinn said
Kelly noted that as part of the budget, the Board is planning for 27 capital projects to begin this year at a cost of $166 million including construction of the courthouse annex, the purchase of new voting machines and a host of traffic improvements.
“The $166 million includes federal and state aid, pay-as- you-grow capital improvement fund and bonding,” Kelly added
Kelly said the 2023 budget will accomplish the following: County roads and bridges will be maintained and safe; nutritious hot meals will be delivered to seniors; the most vulnerable will be provided for; students will receive a quality education; open space and recreational opportunities can be accessed by everyone; the environment including Barnegat Bay will be protected; veterans will be honored and served and long-range planning will keep the county financially sound.
The budget is available for review online at the county’s website co.ocean.nj.us
A public hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m., April 5 in Room 119 of the Ocean County Administration Building, 101 Hooper Avenue, Toms River.