Mercer County’s 2016 budget, a $313 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 June 23.
The budget calls for $256 million to be raised by taxation and uses $9.9 million in surplus, leaving a $10 million balance.
County Executive Brian M. Hughes praised the board for working effectively with the Administration throughout the budget process, which included 11 budget meetings.
“The development of the budget is a difficult task, as we try to balance the needs of taxpayers with the desire to maintain services,” he said. “The Freeholders and my Administration scrutinized this budget to search for ways to reduce spending. Every cent is committed to the quality of life of our residents, and carefully managing county finances is our most important duty as a regional government.”
The 2016 county property tax rate will be 59 cents per $100 of assessed value, or a penny more than 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.
About 70 percent of costs are fixed and go toward salaries, wages and benefits for employees. About 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 pension and health benefits, and debt 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.