County Commissioners introduce third consecutive budget with no increase to county tax levy.
(Passaic County, New Jersey) – On Tuesday, February 9th, the Passaic County Board of County Commissioners introduced a structurally balanced and responsible 2021 budget of $436 million. The budget reflects the priorities of current tax relief for its residents while providing future generations with financial stability by utilizing conservative budget practices. This is the third consecutive year the county tax levy has not increased and the fourth time in the last five years.
“Every year we approach the budget process with the difficult task of trying to balance much needed services to our residents with the least impact to the taxpayer as well as keeping future generations in mind,” said Director Pat Lepore, the board’s current director, who also serves as the budget committee chairman. “Introducing our budget early is important because it gives our 16 mayors and our constituents a clear picture of what to expect from the county.”
According to County Administrator Anthony De Nova, the administration started its planning process early, allowing us to introduce our budget nearly two months ahead of the state mandated deadline. This could not happen without the full cooperation of our Department and Division Directors and Constitutional Officers.
“We have worked tirelessly to address long-standing issues affecting Passaic County and to strengthen our finances. These past few years, we have seen the fruits of our labor – getting an Aa1 bond rating, the highest in our county's history and the second highest attainable. We were also able to provide our municipalities with over $39 million to help them purchase equipment and offset other payroll costs in our fight against COVID-19. None of this would have been possible if we did not remain steadfast about keeping our financial house in order,” said Deputy Director Bruce James.
The Board of Commissioners have always recognized that budgets are not one-year documents, and the decisions made today will affect future budgets and taxpayers. This philosophy has enabled Passaic County to do the following:
- The 2021 budget has no increase in the tax levy for the third straight year.
- Over the last 5 years, Passaic County has held the increase in the tax levy to .37 percent, which is well below the state mandated cap of 2.0 percent.
- In August 2020, Moody's Investor Services, affirmed Passaic County’s Aa1 bond rating with a Stable Outlook. To put this in perspective, just 20 years ago, the County’s bond rating was just above junk bond status. Having a strong bond rating demonstrates the fiscal health of a government and due to this, lower interest rates are offered which helps save money.
- The Board implemented a policy to stabilize the County’s debt service by refinancing existing debt without extending its maturity date and limiting the amount of new debt to a maximum of $10 million annually. In 2021, the debt service payment is $36.4 million, which will be reduced to just $13.9 million in 2030.
- Over the years, Passaic County has built a strong fund balance by realizing savings in previous years’ budgets. The fund balance for 2021 is approximately $85.5 million. This reserve helps the County respond to emergencies, displays fiscal stability to bond rating agencies, and has helped improve the County’s cash flow.
- $19 million in fund balance is being used as revenue in the 2021 budget, following the County’s policy of never utilizing more fund balance than the anticipated regeneration of funds for the following year.
- The county continually looks for new opportunities for recurring revenue, which includes shared service agreements with other governments and government agencies, which lessens the County’s reliance on raising property taxes.
The Board of County Commissioners has worked hard to eliminate the structural budget deficit and ensure that Passaic County uses conservative budgeting. It has downsized the workforce where appropriate, eliminated real property no longer needed for government use and utilizes controlled spending practices, all of which have strengthened Passaic County’s financial position, raised its bond rating, and restored the County’s fiscal health.
The 2021 budget hearing and adoption will be held virtually on March 9th at 5:30 pm. The Passaic County 2021 introduced budget and presentation can be found here: Passaic County 2021 Budget.
CONTACT: NEELA MAHBUBA, (973) 225-5380