Statement by Freeholder Director David B. Crabiel Presentation of the Draft 2003 Budget
January 13, 2003

Tonight we present the first draft of the 2003 Middlesex County Budget.

It honors the commitments, which I made during my Director’s Message, to reduce the equalized property tax rate, to invest in the County’s infrastructure, and to improve the level of services for the most needy segments of our population.

Middlesex County continues to grow. Over $6 billion in ratables have been added during the last year to the County tax roles. This Budget recognizes that growth and, to keep pace, includes over $40 million in the 2003 Capital Budget for road and other infrastructure improvements, a small increase over the amount included in the 2002 Capital Budget.

While this proposed Budget is not final and while we intend to “fine tune” appropriations to reduce spending and minimize the burden on our property taxpayers, it is a good starting point and is at least $1 million below the amount necessary to reduce the equalized property tax rate.

This document also honors the pledge, made by this Board to the bond rating agencies last year, to increase the amount of retained surplus (over $6.2 million dollars) in order to maintain the County’s Triple A bond rating.

In addition to increasing retained surplus this draft budget also includes several other areas of increase including:

Salary and Wages $3,624,000
Medical Insurance $4,379,000
Aid to Board of Social Service $1,159,031
Aid to Vocational Schools $1,188,465
Aid to County College $2,000,000
Lease payments Civic Square $1,977,968
Reduction of Interest Income $3,675,331

County match for Grants,

Including Fringe Benefits

$ 350,000
(Total match for Grants $3.5 million)

These items, themselves, more than account for this year’s increase in budgeted appropriations.

Finally, this Budget includes the downsizing of County Government by 38 County-funded positions.

My thanks to the Freeholders and staff who helped to develop this draft Budget for our review. I believe that while some additional refinement is necessary, it is a Budget that meets the needs of our citizens, but does not overburden our property taxpayers.