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Somerset County Adopts Fiscally Responsible 2024 Budget that Increases Surplus While Reducing Tax Rate

Post Date:05/15/2024 1:00 PM

 SCVTHS Groundbreaking

 The groundbreaking in April of an expansion of the Somerset County Vocational Technical High School with $6 million in funding from Somerset County Board of County Commissioners and New Jersey state funding of more than $20 million. Photo includes (l-r) Assemblywoman Michele Matsikoudis, Commissioner Doug Singleterry, Commissioner Deputy Director Sara Sooy, Superintendent Rob Presuto, and Assemblyman Roy Freiman.

 

SOMERVILLE, NJ –The Somerset County Board of County Commissioners last night adopted its 2024 budget, described by Commissioner Director Shanel Y. Robinson as “fiscally responsible, and consistent with our duty to support the needs of our residents and promote economic growth.”

The budget increases the surplus, or “fund balance,” by nine percent, while reducing the tax rate by 3.9 percent. After factoring in rising home values, the net impact on the average assessed home will be a $54.10 increase in the county’s share of property taxes in the County.

“It was a priority for us to maintain and expand our levels of services for our residents while preserving the County’s AAA Bond Rating,” said Commissioner Deputy Director Sara Sooy. “I am proud that we achieved both these goals while still expanding our budget surplus.”

Somerset County serves more than 345,000 residents, providing essential services through its major departments including Human Services, Public Works, Public Health and Safety, and Engineering and Planning. The budget also provides funding to the Constitutional Offices of the County Clerk, Sheriff, and Surrogate, and to affiliated agencies such as the Somerset County Vocational Technical High School, Raritan Valley Community College, the Somerset County Parks Commission, and the Prosecutor’s Office.

The adopted budget of $270,819,836 is up 1.87% from 2023 and includes $226,416,726 to be raised through property taxes. The average county home valued at $550,000 (up $39,000 from 2023) will see a modest annual increase of $54.10 in the County’s portion of their property tax bill.

The tax rate will decline to .2888 from .3004 per $1,000 of assessed home value. The County’s total assessed real property value is more than $78 billion, up 7 % from last year.

“We have worked hard to keep our operating costs in line while making important long-term investments in our residents, infrastructure, and economy,” said Director Robinson.

The County has recently broken ground an expansion of the County’s VoTech High School and new horse barn at Lord Stirling Park, and have announced the purchase of 402 acres of open space in Hillsborough and an important Revolutionary War Battlefield in Bound Brook.

Nearly 70 percent of the budget consists of obligated costs required by State or Federal law. The primary costs driving increases for the year were health insurance, debt service, and special costs associated with the 2024 Presidential Election.

The presentation of the budget introduction Tuesday evening is available on the county website here.

The 2024 County budget will:

  • Maintain significant infrastructure, including 38 parks and open space across 15,000 acres, 248 miles of county roads, and 752 bridges.
  • Fund high-performing public health services, 911 communications, emergency response, and training capabilities.
  • Fund the Sheriff’s Office, Prosecutor, and Corrections Facilities.
  • Fund comprehensive human services operations during a period of crisis for mental health and substance use.
  • Provide vital transit services to our workforce and seniors.
  • Support economic development, tourism, and planning.
  • Partially fund affiliated agencies including the County Vocational Technical High School, Raritan Valley Community College, Somerset County Park Commission, Social Services, and Somerset County Business Partnership.

The budget includes nearly 200 shared services that save taxpayer dollars:

  • Providing municipalities and schools with easy access to shared services via the innovative Somerset County Marketplace.
  • Recycling for all 21 municipalities, including schools.
  • Transportation services for six municipalities.
  • Graphics and printing services for 13 municipalities.
  • Vehicle maintenance for 30 municipalities and agencies.
  • Vehicle fuel for over 50 agencies.
  • Statewide emergency services training.
  • Public health services for nine municipalities.
  • Full dispatch service for 15 municipalities (two out of county), EMS dispatch services in 7 more towns, plus fire only in 4 towns.
  • A statewide cooperative purchasing program.

Somerset County Board of County Commissioners
Somerset County is governed and managed by the Board of County Commissioners. The Board consists of five members with one or two elected each year in November in the general election, and they each serve three-year terms. Commissioners serve as liaisons to all divisions in the county.

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