The Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders introduced the 2018 County budget at their regular meeting on January 23, 2018. Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton delivered his annual Budget Message which highlights the spending plan for 2018.
The message is as follows:
2018 Budget Message
Preparing the budget is one of the most important documents used to govern all facets of County Government. The budget serves as the blueprint that ensures we are addressing the needs of our residents, living within our means and maintaining the quality of life Cape May County residents expect and we work hard to maintain.
The budget being introduced today has taken our senior administrative staff months of research, coordination and work to complete. The Budget Team is made up of professionals who are highly regarded in their fields. They have created a document that best reflects our mission to provide services to our residents and invest in our future. They are sensitive to the needs of our most venerable and underserved population and that is reflected in this budget. They understand this Board's continued commitment to our constituents and the need to remain within the State mandated CAP. Their job does not end with the adoption of the budget. They carefully monitor spending throughout the year to ensure we remain on track and continue to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers.
The total budget for 2018 is 152.6 m. This budget reflects an overall 4% increase over 2017. This increase will enable the County to maintain essential services as well as prepare for substantial capital projects for improvements in county infrastructure.
The tax rate for 2018 is up just over 1/2 a cent. Revenue is up, the levy raised in support of the 2018 budget is $112 million. The tax rate is projected to be .2247 in 2018 which is an increase of 6/10 of a cent.
The County was able to generate surplus of over 11 million dollars, which pushed the total surplus over $20 million dollars for the first time in several years. The County increased the surplus anticipated in the budget to 10.3 which is 50% of the available surplus. This is consistent with the County's policy.
We are tested each year to find ways to meet the ever changing needs of our residents. We as a community, face new challenges that impact our resiliency and test our resolve. Never before has the need for us to work together for the good of the people been more crucial. Cape May County is not isolated from the social problems that have become a national crisis. The answer lies in joining with our community to address these issues head on. Cape May County is working on many fronts to deal with the issues that are hurting our families.
Renovations at the Court House will provide for an extended drug court, staffing and training has been added to the Prosecutors' Office and the Department of Social Services is at the end stages of being reorganized to better identify and assist those in need.
Cooperation with local organizations has been ramped up to provide warming shelters, food pantries and clothing for those in need. The Homeless Trust Fund is generating funds to address and prevent homelessness in the county. The Office of Emergency Management has revamped the Code Blue program to enable each municipality time to focus on providing shelter in the event of severe weather conditions.
This Board takes pride in the accomplishments and improvements made over the past several years. This is our home and we work hard to provide the best opportunities for our residents. Infrastructure, public safety and health and human services are paramount in our spending plan.
We are continuing to work to bring new jobs and economic opportunities to the county. Public safety is always in the forefront. Two major construction projects will come to fruition this year.
The construction of the new 85,000 square foot Correctional Center is scheduled to be completed in May. The entire project, including the demolition of the existing jail and the construction of the parking areas is scheduled for completion in December 2018. The facility will operate under the model of “Direct Supervision” with one Officer being assigned to a Housing Unit with 64 inmates. This is the new model in jail design that will ensure the safety of our correctional officers and allow optimal oversight of the inmates. Under the Direction of Sheriff Nolan and former Sheriff Schaffer the facility will meet mandated requirements well into the future. Warden Don Lombardo, and Captain Chuck Magill have established a transition team to begin working on the logistics of transitioning from the old jail to the new. This was a much needed and monumental task that would not have been possible or affordable without our Facilities and Services Director Ann Marie McMahon. Everyone involved in the project has done an exemplary job to keep the construction on time and on budget.
Central dispatch and communication within Cape May County for emergency purposes has been an ongoing concern. The County Central Dispatch project is nearing completion. The inter-local agreement with Lower Township has proven to be a cost effective and efficient model to provide 9-1-1 services throughout the county.
The project consists of a Central Dispatch Facility for Cape May County and includes a renovation to the Lower Township Police Department. The construction was completed in phases and the contractor is currently working on Phase 3. The Emergency Management Center contains 16 dispatch consoles, dispatch training room, command room, conference room, administrative offices, a locker room and kitchen. Security features such as cameras and card access units are being installed. The equipment is being assembled on the dispatch consoles. The Lower Township Police Department is on track and all team members are anxiously awaiting the completion of this innovative project.
In conclusion, we believe this is a good budget for our County this year. It will provide the ability to keep costs low, while tackling necessary and important projects that will improve our community both this years and in our time ahead.
Contact: Denis Brown, Confidential Aide
January 23, 2018