Sorting base salaries from the 2015 employee list into a spreadsheet (go through the tabs at the bottom to see the different departments) and comparing each department to the numbers in the 2015 budget (another spreadsheet) we find some items of note:
Some departments (notably Economic Development, County Counsel, and Public Works) show higher amounts in the 2015 employee list salaries than what is in the 2015 budget, a possible explanation for which could be layoffs coming
(for the accountants only) – the 2015 Adopted Budget has an error as the $14,770 Salary Adjustment reduction was not reflected in the Appropriations page
Of the $4.66 billion that counties will get in taxes in 2015 about $330 million (7.06%) will go for payments into various pensions plans. This is only a fraction of the real cost (presuming no default) but far more than what the state is putting in for their portion.
Three counties (Essex, Hudson, and Passaic) list substantial deposits ($9.8 million total) into what they label ‘county’ plans which look like they are separate from the state run plans
Comparatively little ($836,900) is being deposited into the state DCRP yet after the collapse of the defined benefit plan system which should come toward the end of this decade this type of plan will be the primary pension vehicle for all public employees
These contribution amounts are determined two years in advance by actuarial reports that develop numbers to the dollar yet two counties (Monmouth and Passaic PERS) budget rounded numbers.
Now that all the 2015 county budgets are out this is a good time for a detailed comparison of budget items* beginning with the cost to each county of their freeholder board.
Unlike other line items where different counties do different things for varying number of people, every county has a freeholder board consisting of people usually handpicked to do the bidding of the power-brokers. In that regard they are middle-men who can easily be eliminated if those string-pullers would care to step out of the shadows. That is not going to happen soon so here is what they are costing: $8,334,493
Over $6.4 million was paid in salaries to take care of 137 freeholders though it looks like some counties include staff while over $1.9 million for expenses though varying wildly among the counties form two (Bergen, Somerset) with $0 to Morris at $542,247.
* It is also a particularly good time of year for this series since for the rest of the summer we will have only two more freeholder meetings and waiting on getting back to full staffing.
The New Jersey State Golf Association will host their 95th Open Championship in a couple of weeks at Rockaway River Country Club in Denville. I bring this up because their 96th Open Championship, as announced in 2012, will be held at Galloping Hill Golf Club. Coincidentally, also in what might be the same month next year, Baltusrol will be hosting the PGA Championship (one of the Majors of golf) with elaborate plans already set. How will Galloping Hill compete? We just might have gotten a clue.
* Click on the county name above to go to their 2015 budget and click on the word ‘website’ next to it to go to the area of their website where all the budgets they care to share are located. Essex County got their budget approved yesterday and should be online any day but an Essex County representative provided me with their debt payment amount for the spreadsheet.
According to New Jersey Statutes Annotated (NJSA) among the things you can add onto the tax levy cap is:
(3) Increases in health care costs equal to that portion of the actual Increase in total health care costs for the budget year that is in excess of 2.0% of the total health care costs in the prior year, but is not in excess of the product of the total health care costs in the prior year and the average percentage increase of the State Health Benefits Program as annually determined by the Division of Pensions and Benefits in the Department of Treasury
Pulling off data on health insurance costs from the 20 budgets available for 2015 gives us an idea of how the counties are doing their calculations but we cannot duplicate all their numbers without their Health Insurance Exclusion Calculation Sheet (which we have for only Mercer and Union who put it in their budget document and responded to an OPRA request, respectively). The item missing from the others is the ‘Revenues Offset by Group Health Insurance Appropriation’ which could mean grant money that is allocated towards paying insurance costs though most counties seem to have that item as $0.
The Current Year State Health Benefits Program Average Increase was 7.4% according to the Division of Local Government Services (DLGS) gives you to calculate the tax levy cap but somehow 3.57% becomes a factor in these calculations. Luckily for people who need to do these things the DLGS also provides you with a spreadsheet where all you have to do is input the data in the first sheet of the spreadsheet and it will calculate the cap and exclusions for you in the other sheets.
For Union County that exclusion comes to $866,335 (the increase in excess of 2% of the 2014 cost) when the numbers are plugged into that DLGS spreadsheet yet no exclusion was used in Union County’s actual cap calculation for 2015.
Comparing what other counties did in 2015 in a spreadsheet shows that only three (Gloucester-$217,900, Hudson-$1,881,567, and Morris-$185,578) used the full amount of the excess while five others (Burlington, Cumberland, Monmouth, Somerset, and Warren) all came in under the cap and had no exclusion to use. The other counties either used more than they could have (Atlantic and Hunterdon) or used less (Bergen, Camden, Salem) or nothing (the rest including Union).
2015-520: Authorizing the County Manager to enter into a contract wirh Brown and Brown Metro, Florham Park, NJ and Worth Insurance Agency, LLC, Florham Park, NJ for the provision of: Insurance Consultant/Broker Services from July 1, 2015 through September 30, 2015. This contract shall provide necessary services as outlined above at no additional cost to the county.
2015-525: Amending Resolution Number 2010-609, a Professional Architectural Design and Construction Management Service Contract with Netta Architects, Mountainside, New Jersey, for additional professional services associated with the Justice Complex, Phase III, Oriscello Correctional Facility Interior Alterations, in an amount not to exceed S77,860.00 for a new contract amount nor to exceed $1,482,030.00.
2015-526: Amending Resolution Number 2012-746, a Professional Engineering Design, Construction Administration and Inspection Service Contract with T&M Associates, Middletown, New Jersey, for additional professional services associated with the Replacement of Madison Hill Road Bridge, Ra28, Township of Clark, City of Rahway in an amount not to exceed $32,686.00 for a new contract amount of $314,862.00. (Union County Engineering Project Number 2012-016)
2015-527: Amending Resolution Number 2014-774, a Professional Architectural Design and Construction Management Services agreement with Netta Architects, of Mountainside, New Jersey, associated with the Union County Courthouse Complex New Tower Stairwell Modernization Project, for the relocation of the existing radio mom in an amount not co exceed $124,000.00 for a new contract amount nor to exceed S3,818,330.00.
2015-528: Authorizing the County Manager to award a Professional Engineering Service Contract to CME Associates of Parlin. New Jersey to provide Licensed Sire Remediation (LSRP) Services for the remediation and monitoring of the Former Probation Building in an amount not to exceed $750.00. (Union County Engineering Project Number 201.3-027)