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On Tuesday, Jan. 28, the Cape May County Board of Freeholders introduced a $1.38.9 million budget, which would raise the tax rate by less than half-a-cent. Last year's tax rate was 20 cents.
Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton attributes part of the tax increase to the continued loss in ratables. In five years, the county lost more than $8.1 billion in ratables – about a 15 percent reduction.
The county’s facing other financial hurdles, as well. After increasing 18 percent in 2012, revenues from transfer fees at the county clerk’s office decreased slightly this year by 3 percent, bringing in about $4.6 million. Also, interest on investments went down 34 percent to slightly more than $64,000.
“Despite these financial set-backs – I believe we are introducing a solid budget that will continue to protect the services that residents need and expect from county government – while staying affordable to the taxpayers of Cape May County,” Thornton said.
Under the proposed budget, the county’s operating expenses total $70 million, which is an approximate 1 percent decrease. Meanwhile, salaries and wages increased slightly to $45.3 million.
The tax levy, which is the amount taxpayers contribute to the budget, would increase by nearly 2 percent to $98.3 million. In 2013, that amount was $96.4 million. The 2014 proposed budget also includes about $9 million of the county’s $17 million surplus.
“In 2014, we are focusing on investing in important areas such as infrastructure, economic development and governmental operations,” said Thornton. “This year, we will re-open our newly renovated senior center in Upper Township in February, break ground for a new county correctional center, build new exhibits at the our county zoo, complete the much needed third floor of the county courthouse and end the year with the opening of a state-of-the-art library in Wildwood Crest.”
While it depends on the ratio of assessed value to true value in each of the county’s 16 municipalities, the average taxpayer will pay $209 for $100,000 of property assessment.
People will be able to comment and the Board of Freeholders is expected to adopt the budget at a meeting planned March 11, starting at 7 p.m. in the freeholders’ meeting room at the county administration building.
The budget can be viewed at the office of the clerk of the board at the county administration building and at capemaycountygov.net.