Ocean County’s 2023 budget provides funding for home delivered meals for seniors, road improvements, social services programs, educational opportunities and a host of other essential services while again lowering the county property tax rate.
“This budget continues our conservative and disciplined approach to spending,” said Ocean County Commissioner John P. Kelly, co-chair of the Department of Finance, as he recently presented the fiscal plan during the budget introduction on March 1.
He noted the document is now online on the county’s website at www.co.ocean.nj.us and a public hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m., April 5 in Room 119 of the Ocean County Administration Building, 101 Hooper Ave., here.
The 2023 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.
“While this money is reflected in the budget, it does not affect the budget since it is money distributed after it is received,” Kelly said.
The 2023 budget includes funding for 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,” Kelly said. “Ocean County is prepared to serve everyone that lives here with the best services possible.”
Under the budget, the Ocean County property tax rate is down by 2 cents, bringing the rate to 30.2 cents per $100 of equalized property value.
“The county property tax rate is the lowest it has been in 10 years, and this is the 7th consecutive year that the county property tax rate has decreased,” Kelly said.
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.
“This budget also allows us to maintain our AAA bond rating which helps us achieve our long term economic goals,” Kelly said.
Deputy Director of the Ocean County Board of 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,” Quinn said. “Our annual budget has an impact on the almost 650,000 people that call Ocean County home.”
Kelly said that as part of the budget, the Board is planning for 27 capital projects to begin in 2023 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 said.
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 a blueprint for not just this year but also for the future of the County,” said Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Joseph H. Vicari. “From our 200,000 senior citizens to our children, the programs and services it funds affects everyone.”
Ocean County Commissioner Virginia E. Haines, chairwoman of Parks and Recreation and liaison to Ocean County College and the Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools said the budget provides opportunity for County residents.
“Whether it is the quality educational opportunities found at Ocean County College and our vocational technical schools or the recreational and leisure opportunities found at our 27 parks, and our open space, these funds make certain the people who live here and visit here are accessing the very best we have to offer,” she said.
Ocean County Commissioner Barbara Jo Crea, who serves as liaison to the Department of Human Services and Social Services highlighted the many programs that fall under these departments that help the needy and vulnerable.
“The staff in these departments work tirelessly in getting help to those that need it,” Crea said. “Their efforts help keep food on the table and a roof over the heads of many families throughout the County.”