Annual Freeholder Director's Message
The Year 2006
Freeholder Director David B. Crabiel
January 6, 2006
A NEW BEGINNING…..AGAIN
My distinguished Freeholder colleagues, members of the clergy, members of the Judiciary, elected and appointed officials, county staff and friends, one and all.
Once again, this time for the 11th year, it is my high honor and privilege to welcome you to the re-organization ceremonies of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. It is my great pleasure to share with you a brief look back at the highlights of the year just past and to glance ahead at the year 2006.
We do these things sharing the great hope that we will finally see a world at peace.
We do these things sharing the great hope that our troops will finally come home. We do these things sharing the great hope that the year 2006 will unfold without the tragic natural events that so adversely impacted the lives of other Americans along our Gulf coast and other peoples of the world in the tsunami-stricken Middle East and Far East.
We do these things sharing the hope that our new Governor and the newly elected Assembly will find solutions to the problems that face the State of New Jersey - and especially the enormous budget deficit that confronts our State and that Governor-elect Corzine will lead the way to finally find a competent and workable solution to the horrible property tax problem that has confronted our state for too long.
Indeed, I know all my colleagues and all of you share the great frustration that New Jersey continues with the most onerous property tax burden in the nation with nothing but rhetoric followed by more rhetoric from elected officials saying - "we have got to do something about it."
My friends, it is, in fact, time to do something about it. In fact, this Board has repeatedly called upon the legislature to give the people a chance - to allow a Constitutional Tax Convention to be convened where new ideas might possibly emerge to end what has become a taxation crisis in our State.
While I say these words lamenting the onerous burden of property taxation that has persisted for much too long in New Jersey, I delight in the fact that your Board of Chosen Freeholders has, over the years, done something about it. We have practiced budgetary restraint. We have practiced spending restraint and we have, for seven of the past 12 years, actually cut the property tax levy supporting our annual county budgets.
That means we have actually extracted from the taxpayers of Middlesex County less dollars while assuring the delivery of high quality County services.
As we enter the year 2006, and as our budget deliberations have already begun, I do not again pledge to cut the tax levy this year. However, spending restraints and an abiding concern for our taxpayers will continue to guide us to the end that "cutting the levy" will always be our goal if not our direct pledge this year.
Last year, as you know, we did cut the levy by $157,000. Indeed, while we cannot pledge to cut the levy again this year, we do pledge that the county's Equalized Property Tax Rate will decrease and this is good news for the property taxpayers of Middlesex County.
The taxpayer cost of government at all levels is always a legitimate issue in the public debate and in our annual political campaigns. It was properly an issue in the election campaign that ended this past November and I confidently believe that the fact that my Freeholder running mate, Camille Fernicola, and I won some 61.4% of votes that were cast reflects the fact that the citizens of Middlesex County know we have done our best to hold down the cost of County government.
I congratulate Freeholder Fernicola for her success at the polls in 2005 which reflected, I am sure, the outstanding quality of her work here.
I also congratulate and thank County Clerk Elaine Flynn who "topped the Democratic ticket" this past year, a fact that reflects the outstanding services provided by her office over the years.
For my personal part, I thank the voters of our County for again entrusting me with the responsibilities to help administer the official affairs of Middlesex County.
Of course, I also thank my colleagues for re-electing me to serve as Director of the Board. I accept those responsibilities with great joy and with great anticipation that, working together, we will again establish and re-establish "Middlesex County as the greatest county in the land."
At this time last year, I applauded the appointment of two former Presidents to lead a national effort to help raise funds to ease the suffering of the tsunami victims in southern Asia. This year, I call upon all of us who are able to be as forthcoming as possible to assist the victims of the two horrible hurricanes that wreaked such havoc in the southern part of our own country.
It is well that all of us, from time to time, pause to reflect upon the fact that we exist as a government for the exclusive purpose of doing for people what they cannot efficiently do for themselves. That is a truth that consciously and sub-consciously guides us in our work as County officials.
It was the impetus creating our record of 13 consecutive years with stabilized or reduced county property taxes.
It has been our impetus in finding more and more ways to do our work more efficiently and with a well-trained and responsive staff of public employees.
It is the basis for our work that has allowed us to have the second lowest per capita cost of County government in New Jersey - only a fraction of a cent below that of Bergen County.
It was the impetus for us to create and complete last year the new, 180-bed, state of the art facility at Roosevelt Care Center, and the new Tuberculosis Clinic and a new Rape Crisis Center.
It stimulated our thinking and our action to create the new Vocational-Technical High School in Perth Amboy and our very popular Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Technologies on the campus of Middlesex County College.
It has been the stimulus for our cooperative work with the Borough of Sayreville for the acquisition of the 400-acre National Lead Site which, when re-developed, will be an enormous tax benefit not only to Sayreville but to the entire County.
Some years ago it guided us as we launched the Tech 2000 program to assure the availability of a computer in every classroom in our County with this program completed last year. And, now we are providing defibrillators for 235 schools in the county.
It also guided us in the development of the Middlesex County Prescription Savings Program for Seniors and Disabled citizens.
This past year, I announced as a personal goal a dredging project of the Raritan River from Raritan Bay to New Brunswick, a program that is finally underway and which will be completed this year.
In 2005 we also created the South Central Middlesex County Flood Control Commission to assist the municipalities in alleviating flood conditions in Helmetta, Spotswood, East Brunswick, Monroe, Jamesburg, South River, and Old Bridge.
It has been the impetus that causes our County to enjoy the Aa1 bond rating from Moody's and the AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor's.
And, we do all these things guided by the strictest County Ethics Code in our State. Parenthetically, I point out that despite some partisan sniping and comments by a small group of naysayers, our Ethics Code works. It is efficient and is a model for other government jurisdictions in our State.
The fact is there is a large and growing number of County initiatives that are often unheralded in the press but always the subject of great pride that all of us share. These include our traditional position as the number one recycling county in the State of New Jersey. They include the continuing upgrade of our outstanding 19 County parks and four golf courses.
They include our "shared services" program that helps our county and our 25 municipalities to help control property taxes. And, ladies and gentlemen, it includes a magnificent program of open space preservation.
So far, since the inception and approval by the voters for the creation of our Open Space and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, more than 6,000 acres of open space have been preserved and 3,700 acres of farmland have been preserved for posterity.
In 2005 alone, these preservation projects included the Metuchen Trail Head, the Boyko Farm and the Stanton property. In fact, as we enter the year 2006, I confidently believe this year will be the premiere year of activity in the preservation of open space.
To all of us the preservation of open space and farmland directly results in the enhancement of the quality of life in Middlesex County. These preservation projects, which have been major initiatives ever since the program began, will reach a zenith this year and will continue as ensuing years unfold. To all of us, these preservation projects underscore the great value of competent government allowing us to do for others what they simply cannot do for themselves.
And so, as we enter the year 2006, we do so with pride in our accomplishments in prior years, confidence in our ability to fully debate potential solutions to our problems and with a renewed commitment to making our County even better.
This new year will see many innovative ideas come to life in many of the departments of our County government - all of them conceived to enhance our delivery of services or to expand County services to people most in need.
To this end. . .
We know that the best barometer for the favorable recognition of Middlesex County is the pride that our families have in living here, working here, playing and praying here as family groups. We know that a great measure of that pride derives directly from the quality of our county government. And we thank the County staff and all of our volunteers for their stewardship.
Every one of us shares a determination and a commitment to recognize that truth. As a re-elected Freeholder, I assure you I embrace that truth, as do all other members of this Board. We join in accepting the mandate of the voters of Middlesex County.
You demand and expect unqualified integrity and the highest standards of ethical government, and you will have it.
You demand and expect the highest quality of County services at a cost we can all afford, and you will have it.
You demand and expect to be safe in your neighborhoods, to enjoy your parks and playgrounds and quality services for our young people and for our Senior Citizens, and you will have it.
You will have all these things, and more, as my colleagues and I begin a new year of work as Freeholders.
Once again, Mary joins me in extending the very best wishes of the season to all of you. We do so with the prayer that the Eternal God continues to bless us, one and all.
Thank you, Happy New Year, and always remember - "Middlesex County is the greatest county in the land."
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