Commissioners Approve $519 Mil. County Budget

For The Leader/Times

COUNTY — During its regular meeting Thursday, the Union County Board of County Commissioners adopted two ordinances and 26 resolutions.

One of the resolutions was to adopt the 2021 County of Union budget, which was put together under the guidance of Commissioner Christopher Hudak, Fiscal Committee chair. The budget totals $519,836,107, with $367,295,299 to be raised through property taxes.

Board Chairman Al Mirabella introduced that part of the meeting by saying, “With the county and the nation as a whole continuing to feel the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, I once again instructed Fiscal Chairman Hudak and the county manager to deliver a zero-percent tax increase. For the second year in a row, we’ve delivered on that zero percent.”

Mr. Hudak said, “We continue to face a challenge with the Covid-19 pandemic, and we are ever mindful of the profound impact on all residents of Union County. We worked hard with our county manager and our finance director to build a budget that will fund the response to Covid-19, our safety net, and the normal county services.”

Mr. Mirabella added, “This budget once again maintains all essential services. We also maintain the county’s bond rating, which is the highest attainable.”

After the budget hearing was opened to the public for comment, the eight present members of the board who were present voted unanimously to approve it.

The two ordinances that were adopted were in regard to agreements in relation to the Union County Administration Complex Project and the lease revenue bonds that will be issued for the large project.

The county has agreed to pay the principal of and interest on the county-guaranteed lease revenue bonds in an aggregate principal amount not exceeding $120 million.

The county’s Administration Complex Project includes constructing two new office buildings on the former site of the county’s Division of Motor Vehicles facility. The completion of this project will allow the county to consolidate its administrative services into one location while eliminating rent payments for its current office spaces.

A resolution was adopted by the board authorizing the county manager to enter into an agreement with the County of Essex for the relocation of inmates from the Union County jail on an as-needed basis, for a five-year period spanning July of this year through the end of June 2026.

The per diem/per inmate housing fee is to be paid by Union County to Essex County for the duration of the agreement in accordance with a fee schedule specified in the agreement.

Mr. Mirabella, in his closing statement for the meeting, said, “This is one of the most historic meetings in all my 23 years as a freeholder/commissioner. The votes we took tonight are going to transform county government as we know it.

“Not only did we pass a budget for a second year in a row of zero tax increase, but we voted to save $103 million over the next five years by closing the Union County jail and housing the prisoners in a neighboring county, saving millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars,” continued Mr. Mirabella.

“This really is the result of some visionary thinking on the part of our county manager, Ed Oatman. He has done a terrific job of navigating this program to the point where we are tonight to vote on this,” stated Mr. Mirabella.

Mr. Mirabella explained more by saying, “There was a lot of negotiations with our neighboring county. There has been a lot of consideration done for the employees and corrections officers who work there. Mr. Oatman has worked tirelessly to make sure that as many and all of the employees that wanted an opportunity to work in either Essex or neighboring Hudson County had that opportunity.”

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