The recent Bergen County Board of Commissioners meeting served as an occasion to honor several community heroes while grappling with the pressing issues of economic inflation and fiscal responsibility.
Commissioners began the meeting by paying tribute to distinguished community servants, among them were Sergeant Ron Salsano and John PecGuerrero. Salsano was celebrated for his heroic rescue of a suicidal juvenile in 2022, earning him the New Jersey Police Honor Legion Police Officer of the Year award. PecGuerrero, a 50-year veteran of the Paramus Rescue Squad, was recognized for his tireless efforts in community safety and as a key member of the Paramus COVID response team.
After heartfelt tributes, the commissioners turned their attention to pressing fiscal matters. The 2023 county budget, presented in the midst of inflationary pressures and supply chain issues, promised to deliver on community safety, education, public health, and infrastructure, despite a revenue loss totaling $137,578,000 over four years due to COVID-19.
County officials were committed to maintaining fiscal responsibility, indicating an increase in controllable costs by only 1.3%. The budget includes significant investments in the community safety and education sectors, highlighting a new high school and increased funding for County Special School Services district. Infrastructure improvements are also on the horizon, including fixing the Route 17 bottleneck and resurfacing 23 miles of county roads.
A proposed tax increase of 3.54% was presented to manage the budget challenges, translating to an additional 45.42 cents per year for an average house assessed at $500,000 in Bergen County. County executives defended this increase, citing the need to grow the fund balance while continuing to provide essential services.
Significantly, the budget includes allocations for mental health services, combating the opioid epidemic, addressing food insecurity, and providing transport for those with limited mobility. Parks and recreation, too, will see investments aimed at improving residents’ quality of life.
The capital budget’s second component includes a noteworthy allocation of $15.77 million for new voting machines. Further, the capital budget will support developments in parks, public works, and community safety.
The meeting also revealed that shared services contracts have benefited areas beyond Bergen County, like Hudson County, underlining the county’s commitment to regional collaboration.
Finally, the assembly also heard public concerns, including proposals for a People’s Aid Resource Center and an appeal for sustainable use of plastics and enhanced green spaces. The attendees’ involvement emphasized the importance of public participation in shaping the community.
The county executive expressed gratitude towards employees and commissioners for their hard work in concluding the meeting, restating the commitment to making Bergen County a desirable place to live, work, and raise a family.