Mercer County’s 2017 budget, a $323 million plan that allows the county to continue to maintain necessary services and stays within the state-mandated 2 percent cap, was formally adopted by the Board of Chosen Freeholders on May 9, announced the County yesterday.
The budget calls for about $262 million to be raised by taxation and uses $11.1 million in surplus, leaving a balance of about $11.5 million.
The 2017 County property tax rate will be 59 cents per $100 of assessed value, the same rate as last year. County taxes are equalized to reflect the difference between municipal property assessments and property market values. A resident’s tax rate will rise or fall depending on his or her municipality.
County Executive Brian M. Hughes, who had presented his budget proposal to the Freeholder Board in February, praised the board for working effectively with the Administration throughout the budget process.
“We presented a responsible budget that met our state mandates and contractual obligations without compromising the crucial programs and services that our residents depend on,” Hughes said. “I appreciate the board’s careful consideration of this plan.”
About 70 percent of costs are fixed and go toward salaries, wages and benefits for employees. More than 50 percent of the operating budget is going toward public safety, including the Prosecutor’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, Police Academy and Corrections. Areas of cost increase are to debt service, the medical examiner’s office as a result of a one-time transition and to the 911 call center, where the county has expanded its service level by adding EMT service.
The county’s open space tax rate was set at 2.5 cents, the same as last year. This tax, voter approved for up to 3 cents per $100 of equalized value, is levied to meet the need for open space acquisitions, recreational development, historic preservation and land stewardship.