The Cape May County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed its 2021 budget during the June 22 Commissioners Meeting. The final budget reduces the originally projected tax increase of one penny down to 7/10 of a penny. The 2021 County tax rate of .234 cents per $100 or $7.00 per $100,000 of property valuation. The tax levy, amount to be raised by taxes, for the final budget is $135 million while the remainder of the funds required to operate County government are derived from grants, and various miscellaneous revenues. The County has received American Rescue Plan funds from the Federal government and have used a portion of those funds to offset a $2.5 million loss in revenue resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The County budget represents operational expenses that were held to 2020 funding levels, along with a decrease in full-time and seasonal employees versus last year. Several departments saw decreases in revenue last year because of the pandemic and health restrictions that were put in place. This funding enables the County to maintain essential services and fund Capital Improvement projects that include county roads, bridges, zoo exhibits and buildings.
“COVID-19 has been the most unique challenge of my time as an elected official,” said Cape May County Commissioner Director Gerald M. Thornton. “Last year, we ordered a 10% decrease in spending to hold the line in our budget due to uncertainty. This year, County departments are being kept at past spending levels. We will continue to do what is necessary to protect our taxpayers in Cape May County.”
Cape May County has the second lowest average property tax bill among all counties in New Jersey, per NJ Advanced Media. The County’s average tax bill in 2020 was $5,443 versus the Statewide average of $9,112.
Despite COVID-19, the outlook for Cape May County’s economy continues to be positive for the future. Moody's Investors Service, which assesses the County’s fiscal health and indebtedness, maintained the County's Aa1 bond rating during its most recent analysis and specifically mentioned the spike in demand for coastal property as a long-term positive economic driver. Cape May County experienced an increase in the first quarter of this year in New Jersey Occupancy Tax collections by nearly 13% over 2019, which was a record year in Cape May County for tourism.
“We want to thank our Cape May County residents and County government employees for persevering through this pandemic,” said Thornton. “Because of the tremendous work and resiliency of the amazing people of Cape May County, we have been able to fully reopen our economy this summer. The entire Board of County Commissioners is committed to ensuring that we have a safe, healthy and robust summer season.”