County Cuts Tax Rate

County Cuts Tax Rate Burlington County Freeholders today reviewed a proposed $199.4 million budget for the year 2005 which carries with it a 1.2-cent cut in the County property tax rate.

In addition to cutting the tax rate for the 15th year in a row, the budget holds the increase in spending to 4.4 percent, which is the lowest percentage increase in the last five years.

That figure is also within the most recent Consumer Price Index of 4.5 percent reported for the Burlington-Philadelphia region.

“Cutting the tax rate has seemingly become a Burlington County tradition,” said Freeholder Director James K. Wujcik. “Our secondary goal this year was to tighten up spending, and we have managed to do that as well.

“This is no small accomplishment considering that the County has had to once again make up for shortfalls in State funding, especially for the County college and the vocational schools,” Wujcik added.

He noted that more than $2 million of the $8.4 million overall increase in the budget was being allocated to the two schools. Meantime, the county’s contribution to the Special Services School remained stable.

Other budget priorities include emergency management planning and training, including anti-terrorism preparedness and land preservation and parks development.

Freeholders reviewed the budget today during its work session, but are expected to formally introduce it next Wednesday, April 27, 2005. The public hearing is tentatively scheduled for 7 PM, Wednesday, May 25, 2005.

Freeholder William S. Haines, Jr., who oversees the Division of Parks, noted that two more new County parks – Smith’s Woods in Eastampton and Long Bridge Bark in Hainesport - are expected to open soon.

Construction will begin shortly at yet another site, namely Pennington Park in Delanco. Meantime, the County’s pursuit of additional open space sites for parks development continues.

“The plan over the next several years is to develop and phase in the new parks, and to gradually hire the personnel that will be needed to manage and maintain them,” said Haines.

The new tax rate will be 38.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, meaning it will remain the lowest ever recorded since 1956, when the County began using the State’s mandated equalized ratio method of computing tax rates.

For the owner of a house assessed at $150,000 of equalized value, the annual County tax payment will decrease $18. Their total County tax bill will be $575.

Meantime, the County’s projected spending rate of $443 per resident is expected to remain among the lowest in the State, a status it has enjoyed for the past 10 years.

Wujcik noted that the County was realizing a healthy increase in ratables of $4.2 billion, or 13 percent. He commented that the County “continues to do well from an economic growth perspective.”

Topping the list of major capital projects in the coming year is the construction of a $13.7 million gas-to-energy facility at the Resource Recovery Complex. The plant is expected to generate approximately $10 million in savings and revenue over the next 10 years.

In addition, freeholders anticipate issuing $10.5 million in bonds for road and bridge construction. But those funds are expected to leverage even more – an estimated $15 million – in funding from state, federal and private sources.

Freeholder Dawn Marie Addiego said for the Health Department, 2005 is a year of important initiatives, as reflected in the budget. She noted that funding had been earmarked to undertake a major Behavior Risk Assessment which would evaluate the overall health of the community.

In addition, the Health Department anticipates State grant funding to begin use of the new medical tests for HIV. The tests provide results in 20 minutes – making medical treatment and counseling immediately available.

“Meantime, we recently opened our new family medical center in Pemberton, and a much-expanded, much improved animal shelter is moving toward completion. All-in-all this has already been a breakthrough year for the Health Department,” Addiego said.

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Author: Press Release-Burlington County

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