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Warren County Commissioners introduce stable budget despite COVID-19 costs

WARREN COUNTY, NJ – The Warren County Board of County Commissioners introduced a $91.9 million budget for 2021 tonight that keeps taxes stable for most taxpayers.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing and vote on adopting the budget on March 24 at 6:00 p.m. in the Commissioners Meeting Room of the Wayne Dumont, Jr. Administration Building. The proposed budget will be available for public review on the Warren County government’s website prior to the hearing, and the meeting will be accessible online and by conference call.

“This is a responsible budget for the residents of Warren County. Tough decisions from the past have allowed us to provide a plan forward that will keep this government in a strong position as we look past this difficult time,” County Commissioner Director James R. Kern III said.

“Services will remain intact, no employees have been laid off due to the pandemic, and planned projects will continue. When this pandemic is behind us, Warren County will continue to be in a strong financial state,” Kern said.

“I’m very proud of this budget. Given the COVID pandemic, this year’s budget was a challenge, but we were able to keep the tax rate in the county flat while reducing taxes in other areas for an overall tax reduction for most Warren County residents,” County Commissioner Jason J. Sarnoski said.

For the first time in 5 years, the County tax levy would increase by 2 percent in the proposed spending plan to collect $71.4 million. However, the levy would still be less than it was in 2015. The estimated tax rate will be $63.13 per $100 of property value, about a quarter of a penny more than in 2020.

In order to offset the increase, the county has turned to the Open Space trust fund for relief. “For the past several years, we have been collecting more revenue than we have been spending,” said Kern. He added the county has a healthy cash balance and the decision to reduce the open space tax from 2.5 cents to 2.0 cents per $100 of property will not have a negative impact on the program.

The half-cent reduction in the open space tax will offset the increase in the general budget’s tax levy, resulting in small decrease in the combined tax rate.

County Commissioner Lori Ciesla experienced her first budget process and was quite impressed with the efficient and diligent manner the budget was prepared.

“In what can only be described as a year like no other, the county staff and my fellow commissioners worked hard to find savings where we could, without sacrificing the needs of the county,” Ciesla said.

Warren County’s Capital Improvements plan spans a 6-year period from 2021-2026. This year’s projects are budgeted at $4.1 million and will be funded in part by $2 million of capital funds saved from previous years, continuing the county’s “pay as you go” budget practices instead of relying on borrowing.

“This program prioritizes important projects and maintains our county facilities and infrastructure at a high level without negative long term impacts on the taxpayers,” Kern said.

County Administrator Alex Lazorisak said, “department heads have done a good job of keeping their operating expenses in check over the years.”

“My philosophy is, we don’t budget for this year, we budget for the future, for the next five years,” Lazorisak said.

“I’m very proud of this county, I’ve very proud of this board, and I’m happy with this budget,” Sarnoski said.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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