Cutting Taxes and Retaining and Attracting Jobs on County Agenda for 2011
(Woodbury, NJ) - The Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholder will held its 325th Annual Reorganization meeting where Freeholder Robert M. Damminger was sworn-in as Director of the Board and Freeholder Warren S. Wallace, Ed. D. as Deputy Director.
"I am humbled and excited to lead this Board. I have a lot of energy and ideas and am looking forward to working hard for the citizens of our county. One of the first items on my agenda is to cut the tax rate and we have already been working on areas to cut," said Damminger. "One of the first actions I will take as Director is to eliminate health benefits for part-time elected and appointed officials who have been eligible for them in the past. I believe what we do is about public service and this sends a strong message to the taxpayers that we understand how tough times are for them," Damminger stated.
Damminger said that the Freeholders have cut and held the tax rate steady for the past decade, keeping it at the same level it was in 1968, while continuing to share and regionalize services as means of achieving savings both at the county and the municipal levels. "Our taxpayers still need more relief. We are looking at cutting $18 million to close a gap in the budget," he said. Since 2008 Gloucester County has eliminated 168 positions from its roles and saved over $10.2 million in salaries and benefits.
Damminger said that another priority of 2011 for the Board would be job retention and job creation. "We have seen glimmers of optimism in the last quarter of 2010 in terms of businesses opening and expanding in Gloucester County. Our Economic Development team is ramping up their efforts in reaching out to our existing businesses to make sure that they make our county their home for a long time to come. We also expect continued growth in the food industry which represents over 12,400 jobs here," said Damminger.
Damminger said that since the Business Retention Program started just a few months ago their effort has resulted in visits to 63 companies, representing 2500 current employees. What they found when they visited these employers was that these companies had the need to fill 132 jobs. "By sitting down with these companies we are not just making sure that they have the employees that they need, but we are showing that we will do what it takes to keep them here. Our economic development team worked with US Food Service in Swedesboro to keep them from relocating to another state and saved 700 jobs here," Damminger said. He said that Cento Fine Foods is expanding their headquarters in West Deptford and that Schar USA, an international gluten free food company, is locating their headquarters in Logan Township with a $15 million capital expansion.
The Port of Paulsboro will continue to be a focus of the Freeholder Board's blueprint to bring new jobs to Gloucester County with construction to begin on the access road and overpass bridge from 295 to the Port. The Port is anticipated to bring 2500 jobs to the region and generate $12 million annual in tax revenues.
"Freeholder Warren S. Wallace, Ed. D., said he is excited to begin as liaison to the County College, GCIT and the Special Services School District (GCSSSD). "Gloucester County is a leader in education and achieving savings for our taxpayers. Gloucester County College has the lowest tuition in New Jersey and all three, GCC, GCIT and GCSSSD have the lowest administrative cost per pupil in the state," Dr. Wallace stated. Freeholder Dr. Wallace has served on the Board of Freeholders since 2000.
"I am passionate about education, and I am excited about the opportunity to continue to lead our institutions into the future," Dr. Wallace said. "The construction for the new University Center will get underway this year and it will mean our residents will have access to undergraduate and graduate programs close to home," stated Dr. Wallace.
Wallace said that the 24,000 square-foot facility on the campus of GCC will be built with no net cost to county taxpayers. With enrollment at an all-time high and classroom space at a premium, the University Center will help to address the needs of GCC students during the day and be used in the evenings by Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) for undergraduate and graduate programs. The fees paid by Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) to GCC offset the cost of the construction of the building. Other affiliations with four-year universities are also anticipated to offer advanced degree programs at GCC in the future.
The Freeholders said that in 2011 the construction of the Route 322 bypass will be in full gear and that the countywide tax assessing program will continue to save municipalities millions by accurately and fairly assessing all property within the county. Freeholder Damminger said that the county has approximately $8.5 million in road projects scheduled for 2011 and will continue to provide vital services like EMS, 911 dispatching, health, education and economic development programs, and services to Veterans and senior citizens.