BY COLLEEN P. CLARK
After managing to cut the county tax rate each year between 2006–2009, the Camden County Board of Freeholders has introduced its second tax hike in two years.
The $332-million 2011 budget, which was discussed at the May freeholder meeting, would include a 5-cent hike equivalent to approximately $55 extra per year for the average Camden County taxpayer.
Tax rates overall have still decreased over the last six years — from 74 cents in 2006 to the proposed 66 cents in 2011 per $1,000 of assessed property value — but with challenges such as a drop in ratables of $2.4 billion over the last two years combined with increased costs, this 2011 budget hike was introduced, said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr.
The 5-cent hike, along with the recent layoff of about 260 county workers, helped to close a $43-million budget shortfall the county was faced with this year. Employees remaining after the layoff, with certain exceptions such as public safety, are required to take 22 furlough days this year to help cut costs further.
“Over the past six years, we have reduced the workforce over 30 percent, from 2,121 employees to 1,481, most through attrition until this year’s layoffs,” Cappelli said.
And while he said the county’s No. 1 priority is its taxpayers, the county was faced with an especially difficult budget year.
He added that the proposed hike does fall under Gov. Chris Christie’s 2-percent budget cap — $1 million to be exact.
“Our overall philosophy has been to have taxpayers keep as much of their money as possible,” said Cappelli. “And from 2006 to 2009, we cut the tax levy each year, returning some of the surplus to the taxpayers.”
Camden County ranks 8th lowest among New Jersey’s counties for its per capita tax levy, according to the freeholder director.
The 2011 Camden County budget will be voted on following a public hearing at the June 16 freeholder meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. at the Chesilhurst Community Center, located at 509 Edwards Ave.