The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders have officially introduced the 2018 budget for the county which is a rise of $8,100,000.00 for a grand total of $416,092,260.00 from $407,919,144 in 2017 which saw a $7,900,000.00 jump, and includes a minuscule drop in the property tax rate.

This year's budget includes a decreased tax rate of a half-cent to 34-cents per $100.00 of equalized value, according to Freeholder Deputy Director John Bartlett.

"The amount to be raised by taxation is up 1.29-percent," Bartlett said. "That comes from the growth in the county's property values which increased by 2.74-percent."

The total amount raised by taxation will be $346,491,117.00 while county property values are now up to $99,800,000,000.00 which Bartlett says still puts the county $9,000,000,000.00 below the 2009 values.

Bartlett said the county's surplus in 2018 is $55,400,000.00 with the proposed budget including $22,000,000.00 from surplus.

"Just because you put the money in the budget, doesn't mean you have to spend it," Bartlett said. "Last year we under-spent the budget by about $15,000,000.00 and I would expect we will under-spend this year too unless there's some great emergency that precludes that."

The architect of the budget for nearly four-decades, Bartlett told WOBM News this budget-spending plan in 2018 does give them some flexibility.

"We have a balance wheel in this thing that if things do take a downturn, which I don't expect, we've got room to cut back in some of the cash capital things we're doing next year and not undercut the operation of the county itself," Bartlett said.

He says they have about $25,000,000.00 in cash that goes into capital projects.

Bartlett says the capital budget is a multi-year plan of projects that the county might undertake.

On the county's radar include $36,000,000.00 worth of road improvement related projects.

"We put a good deal of money into the county road-transportation system every year to keep it up to par," Bartlett said. "That's money that in all likelihood, a fair portion of that, will be probably bonded and spent starting at least in 2018 and some of it may be finished in 2018."

He says all the projects on their radar are part of a master plan of improvements for the county to put in motion at some-point in the future.

Some of the projects we may see worked on at some-point this year:

  • "We're looking at the parking garage which needs some repairs and renovations," Bartlett said. "We've set a figure of perhaps as much as $1,500,000.00 for the parking garage."
  • "Out at Ocean County College, and this will be done, either this year or next year...for roof replacement and the reconstruction of parking lot #2 because the new vocational/performing arts center will jut out into the current parking lot so we've got to do some rearranging of the parking lot that is tentatively scheduled in here for about $2,500,000.00."
  • "There is a big project that is starting this year but will not be finished this year...the county is looking at building at some-point in the near future a building for county social services. (We are also) looking at a Sheriff's Crime Lab. It's tentatively looked at that this may run as much as $13,000,000.00 in the 2018 capital budget. "
  • "We would like to begin construction and probably will on a western garage facility for the road department. We made the vote as far as $5,000,000.00 for that this year."

While the budget in 2018 is going up, the property tax rate is going down...a tiny bit.

Bartlett says the a half-a-cent drop will have effect Ocean Countyans differently from town-to-town.

"The county taxes on what's called the equalized value. Every town is at a different percentage of true value.

If your town your assessment is figured to be at 100-percent of true value, then your county tax rate will be 34.7-cents.

If your town is only at 80-percent of true value, then this 34-cents gets adjusted by the tax board upward to 100-percent of true value.

If you're equalized value is at $300,000.00, it would save you about $15.00," Bartlett said.

He acknowledges that's not much, but says they're heading in the right direction.

As ratables rise, the property tax rate starts to fall.

In the 2017 budget the property tax date decreased by 1/10th of a cent.

The public hearing and adoption of the budget is scheduled for April 4.

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