BRIDGETON - The Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted 4-2 Tuesday to adopt this year's $117.5 million budget.
The budget adoption came with little public comment from residents, although one person from Upper Deerfield Township said this year's fiscal plan and its tax increase will hurt some county residents.
"The normal citizens of this county cannot afford a tax increase," Nancy Ridgeway said. "We don't know where we're going to get the money from. We were told, 'Give us six months and see what we can do.' We have seen what this board has done in six months."
Cumberland County Freeholder Sam Fiocchi said residents are telling him "how unaffordable it is getting to live here."
"It has to be affordable," he said. "Hitting taxpayers with tax increases isn't the way."
However, Cumberland County Freeholder Joseph Derella said there is only so much that can be cut from the budget in terms of money and staff before services are adversely affected.
"This budget was extremely difficult," he said.
The budget vote came along party lines with Republicans Fiocchi and Carl Kirstein voting against the fiscal plan. Derella and fellow Democrats Doug Long, Tony Surace and Carol Musso voted in favor of the fiscal plan.
This year's budget is smaller than last year's $118.5 million fiscal plan.
However, the budget increases the amount of money to be raised by taxation from $82.9 million to $85.4 million. That increases the county tax rate by almost 3 percent, from 90.3 cents per $100 of assessed property value to 92.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
The Cumberland County Board of Taxation will strike a county tax rate for each of the county's 14 municipalities.
The county is using $7 million in surplus funds to help balance the budget. That is the lowest amount of surplus applied to a county budget since the $5.4 million used in 2009.
Hampering the county's efforts to balance its budget is a ratable base that declined from $9.3 billion in 2012 to slightly more than $9.2 billion this year. The county's ratable base, the figure on which it can impose taxes, stood at $9.8 billion in 2009.
This year also marks the first time since 2009 that the county will hire new employees. Those new workers include 16 corrections officers for its jail here. County officials said the hiring was recommended during a jail study and should actually help contain costs by reducing overtime.
The hirings will bring the number of county employees to 778. The figure stood at 1,109 workers in 2009.
Another jail-related issue involves the use of about $1.7 million in money paid by Gloucester County for some of that county's prisoners lodged in the Cumberland County jail here. The figure will increase to at least $3 million next year, county officials said.
The budget also increases the amount of money given to the county library by $120,000.
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