Monday, May 23, 2022

Burlington County Commissioners adopt 2022 budget

Budget maintains affordability and quality of life.

The Burlington County Commissioners voted to approve a 2022 county budget that continues to fund critical programs and services, while also maintaining the county’s status as the most affordable in the region.

The $230.3 million budget was unanimously approved by the commissioners on April 14, along with the respective library and open space taxes. The approved spending plan calls for millions less in total appropriations compared to last year’s budget and keeps the county tax levy for government operations flat at $169.7 million.

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The County Library Tax levy will remain at $11 million and the County’s Farmland and Open Space Tax will return to a rate of 2.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The change equates to about $11 per household and is expected to generate a total of about $12.4 million for the county’s Open Space Trust Fund, which is dedicated to farmland and open space preservation, parks and trails improvements, and other Department of Resource Conservation and Parks programs. The open space tax remains well below the maximum 4-cents per $100 rate authorized by county voters in 2006.

“Responsible government means being good stewards with our residents’ tax dollars, and this budget reflects sound fiscal management,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Dan O’Connell. “It also reflects our county’s priorities and values, including a commitment to affordability and maintaining our residents’ quality of life through parks enhancements and the preservation of open space and farmland.”

Preserving affordability

Burlington County had the lowest average county tax in New Jersey in 2019, 2020 and 2021, according to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs property tax data.

Last year, Burlington County was one of only three counties where the average county tax decreased, according to the DCA data. Burlington County also has the lowest cost per resident of any New Jersey county at $367. Bergen was the next closest county at $469 per resident.

“We are proud that we are the lowest-cost county in New Jersey and 24 percent less than the next lowest. And we expect to continue to be in 2022,” said Commissioner Felicia Hopson. “This financial record shows how we’ve been able to help keep Burlington County affordable for families and businesses while still responding to their needs, especially with all the challenges from the pandemic.”

Preserving quality of life

The County Parks System consists of more than 1,000 acres of developed parkland and more than 50 miles of interconnecting hiking, biking and running trails, plus several fantastic museums and art galleries.

Last year, Burlington County opened a new 5.5-mile segment of the Delaware River Heritage Trail between Bordentown and Florence, and this spring the County will open a new trail at Arney’s Mount in Springfield – Burlington County’s highest elevation – and a new Rancocas Greenway trail connecting Amico Island Park in Delran with Pennington Park in Delanco.

Fiscally responsible planning

The budget’s $169.7 million operations tax levy remains more than $6 million below what Burlington County is authorized to raise under the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap. It also maintains the county’s workforce and continues to fund critical services and infrastructure, including the County’s COVID response, public safety programs, senior services, workforce development and education.

The spending plan also supports programs that aid the county’s most vulnerable residents, including Meals on Wheels, the Housing Hub and the seniors nutrition program.

The budget calls for the use of $10 million of the county’s $27 million in remaining fund balance from 2021. County officials still anticipate finishing this year with a healthy surplus. Doing so safeguards the county from a prolonged economic downturn and contributes to its strong credit rating.

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