The Sussex County budget is projected to decrease by 1.91 percent, despite calling for a 0.96 percent increase in the total tax levy, the lowest increase in six years.
County administrator Gregory Poff II said the proposed 2021 budget is about $2.2 million less than last year’s approved budget, and that 85 percent of the its funding will come from property taxes.
The proposed spending plan is about $115.1 million. The increase amounts to about $10 per month for the average county home.
“You’ve continued, even in difficult years, to move forward with good plans,” county auditor Ray Sarinelli Sr. said at the county’s March 11 budget workshop.
Sarinelli said the most notable decreases are $1.08 million less for insurance and significantly less in debt costs, down to $989,000. The county also will receive $300,000 in solar bond refunds, which it will receive on the bond’s remaining years.
Capital planning funding has been increased by $500,000, and the county was hit by a $600,000 increase in state pension costs.
“It’s difficult to put together a budget with a nominal increase in a pandemic year when the state of New Jersey hands you a bill that’s $600,000 more than it was before,” Sarinelli said.
Poff said revenue in lower amounts than anticipated have been offset using fund balance. However, salaries and wages are expected to rise by about $513,000.
Largest salary increase
The largest salary increase is in the board of elections.
“With the retirement of the board of elections administrator, this budget provides for restructuring of the department, including two new employees and two new board members,” Poff said.
The county’s $33.1 million capital program for 2021 is mostly for work on roads and bridges. More than 20 percent also goes for education and the library system. The library budget of about $6.3 million features a 0.99 percent increase. Over 2020, the county has increased its fund balance by $56,000.
Over the course of the 2020 pandemic year, Sussex County has increased its fund balance by $56,000.
“I think that’s tremendous when you deal with a shutdown and a pandemic,” Sarinelli said.
Commissioners director Dawn Fantasia said she was proud of the budget the county was able to put together. “If you told me what we would be hit with in 2020, going into 2021, I didn’t think we’d be where we are now,” she said.