Atlantic County freeholders approve $194M budget with 3 cent tax hike

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NORTHFIELD – The Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders unanimously approved the 2013 budget at a meeting Tuesday, March 12. Despite the presence of a standing-room only turnout at the Stillwater Building, there was no public comment.

The total budgeted amount is $193,837,030 – a decrease of .13 percent from 2012. The amount to be raised by taxation is $155,598,082, which is $3,733,112 less than permissible by the state budget cap.

The budget raises the county equalized tax rate by about 3 cents to .3438 per $100 of assessed property.

Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica said he was pleased that the county was able to maintain the services it provided last year.

“I am especially pleased to keep funding the same for intergenerational services, as many of our seniors benefit so much from these programs,” he said.

Freeholder John Risley cited the 13 consecutive perfect audits the county has received as an indication of the county’s strong financial condition.

“We are maintaining an even level of service even as ratables have dropped,” he said.

“This is a budget to be proud of,” added Democrat Charles Garrett as he joined the seven Republican freeholders in support of the budget. Fellow Democrat Colin Bell arrived after the vote had been taken.

County Treasurer and CFO Bonnie Lindaw reported that the county received a AA bond rating from Standard and Poor’s and an Aa2 rating from Moody’s Investor Services.

While Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson did not speak at the meeting, he stated in his budget message that operational costs have been kept to a minimum over the years.

He noted that since 2008 the county’s equalized valuation has declined by nearly $13 billion, which has now resulted in a tax increase.

“Unfortunately this significant loss requires us to raise the tax rate by $30 more per $100,000 of assessed value,” he said. “We are well aware of the number of individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet and we have made every effort to minimize this impact. The freeholders had several weeks to review and they concur that this budget is an economically viable plan that upholds our conservative policies and practices,” Levinson said, praising the bipartisan cooperation of the board.

Also at the meeting, the freeholders voted to renew a professional services contract for up to $107,500 with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Dental School to provide dental services to clients at the Cronin Dental Clinic and Galloway Township Dental Center.

The board also announced that the meeting scheduled for March 19 has been canceled.

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