HACKENSACK- The Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Wednesday voted unanimously to introduce the 2015 Budget, including over $1 million in savings identified by the board in a series of departmental hearings that took place during the previous two months.
The Board was able to capitalize on savings already being realized by the realignment of the Bergen County Police into the Sheriff’s Department, as well as savings recommended by the Freeholders from a number of departments ranging from as low as a $2,000 cut to utilities, to over $200,000 in outside legal fees. By examining the $522 million budget line by line, the Freeholders were able to bring down the average property tax increase from $12.73 to $10.73 with their indicated cuts.
“This budget has truly been a bipartisan effort,” said Freeholder and Budget Chair John Felice. “Nearly every Freeholder regardless of party has identified areas of potential savings in order to keep the budget and taxes low. We have worked very well together on this with County Executive Tedesco and each other. The result is over $1 million cut from the original recommended budget, while still being able to add to important programs like an additional $25,000 to the Bergen County Cooperative Library System.”
The Freeholders also identified several key areas where they were able to increase funding on expanding programs and new initiatives. For example, the Division of Mental Health saw a 12% increase in funding, in both direct assistance to community-based partner agencies as well as funding for new initiatives to tackle hoarding behavior, emergency preparedness for individuals with functional needs, and education to combat mental health stigma. The Division of Veterans Services also saw a 45% increase in funding and will now be fully staffed to meet the needs of Bergen County’s Veterans.
Perhaps the largest increases were those to education, including a 2% increase to the Bergen County Special Services School District and a $1.8 million increase to Bergen Community College.
“The previous County Executive cut over $5 million in funding to Bergen Community College over her tenure, and now with this budget we have fully restored funding to the school,” said Freeholder and Budget Committee member Tracy Silna Zur “We remain committed to increasing funding to education, mental health, and veterans services. This budget is about priorities.”
The budget will now be advertised and reviewed by the State prior to its proposed adoption on June 24th.