MARCH 5, 2009

The 2009 Operating Budget for Middlesex County we introduce tonight reflects the Board of Chosen Freeholders’ focus on the reduction in the size and cost of County Government as ways to achieve the goals of high quality service and affordability to our taxpayers.

The Board, in 2009, has been able to introduce a total operating budget that is $4.96 million less than the 2008 budget. This was done despite large increased costs and reductions in programmatic funding passed on to the County by the State and Federal Governments.

The economic downturn being experienced nationwide has negatively impacted Middlesex County’s traditional revenue sources. The 2009 Introduced budget reflects a $21.1 million decrease in revenue items from 2008 levels.

We have made significant cuts to the expenses we control to bring in a budget that falls under State CAP limits. We have reduced salaries and wages by freezing all vacant positions, eliminating positions through attrition, reducing overtime and freezing 2009 salaries for all employees – union and non-union. Looking to the future, under Freeholder Director Dalina’s leadership, the County has begun a staff attrition plan to reduce the workforce and cost of government over the next three years. We also have streamlined all costs associated with computer purchases and maintenance and will optimize and reduce the County fleet of vehicles.

In these tough economic times, my fellow Board members and I recognize that cutting expenses alone is not enough. To that end, we are aggressively seeking new revenue sources.

At my direction, County Information Technology Director Khalid Anjum is aggressively pursuing a program to build cell towers on County-owned land and opportunities to lease additional space to private and public entities. The project is projected to produce an annual savings of $528,000 in telecommunications operating expenses and generate at least $500,000 in revenue annually from space rental.

Under Freeholder Carol Barrett, the County will develop a long-term strategy for the planning and utilization of County-owned and -leased properties. We will be looking at methods and procedures to reduce the cost of the day-to-day operations of County business. In addition, by working with the Engineering and Planning Department to define the County’s infrastructure needs, we can ensure Federal Stimulus Package funds will not only put people back to work, but bring efficiency to our operations.

Under Freeholder Jim Polos’ leadership, the County is conducting energy audits of County buildings and has implemented energy savings education of staff. The County currently is conducting an energy audit of the Apple Orchard Lane buildings. The County also is pursuing facilities that could produce alternative forms of energy that can be used to power County facilities. Any additional energy generated could then be sold to utility companies. Also, Freeholder Polos is leading the effort to explore advertising and naming rights programs at various County recreational facilities.

Freeholder Ronald Rios is developing a cost-effective strategy to address the growing needs of our aging population and their overall health and well-being. One element of this is the construction of a state-of-the-art, long-term care facility in Old Bridge, which will incorporate environmentally friendly features, making it LEED certified. The County also is committed to enhance the healthcare services available to our residents. In addition, Freeholder Rios is working with Middlesex County College and the Vocational-Technical Schools to promote the use of alternative energy sources to reduce operating expenses at these institutions. 

Freeholder Mildred Scott is continuing to actively pursue Shared Services agreements with other counties for Medical Examiner, juvenile detention and other public safety related services and activities. Also under her direction, the County has taken a leading role in the development of a statewide, searchable law enforcement database that enables County and municipal officers to access information to support investigations efficiently.

Freeholder Blanquita Valenti is spearheading an effort to bring Shared Services practices to the social service agencies that are contracted by the County to assist our residents. By educating the agencies on ways they could create cooperative purchasing opportunities and share certain tasks, we can help them realize operational efficiencies, lessen their reliance on County funds, and help them provide greater resources to the people who need it most.

I want to personally thank Budget Director Al Kuchinskas and all County employees, who have really pulled together as a team to reach a responsible budget that maintains all our quality services, while lessening the burden on our County taxpayers. I also would like to especially thank those employees who brought ideas for new sources of revenue and ways to reduce expenses. They have embraced this budgetary process, knowing the critical economic times this nation is facing. The more we come together as a team and work toward a common goal, the stronger we are as a government, the stronger we are as a County and the stronger we are for our citizens.