Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan briefed the community on her first 100 days in office and looked forward to the rest of her four-year term Thursday afternoon, vowing to use veto power "whenever I see unnecessary, duplicative and excessive spending" and touting a recommended 2011 county budget that she says falls $30 million under predecessor Dennis McNerney's proposal.
During her State of the County Address at Bergen County Plaza in Hackensack, Donovan announced the formation of a new consitutent hotline and also said the county will soon establish the Office of Asset Recovery to "review fees paid to consultants and other vendors to make certain that required services were provided, investigate questionable payments and sue to collect moneys improperly paid by the county or any of its agencies."
In an interview following the address, Donovan said that beyond what she can directly control at the county level, she will encourage municipalities to share services. Bergen County currently has 69 chiefs of police and 75 school superintendents—and can afford neither, she said.
"We need to look to combine our services if we are ever going to get control of the property taxes," Donovan told Patch. "I can control the county portion, but there's also the municipal taxes and the school taxes, and I don't have control over those. But wherever I can encourage people to work together, we're certainly going to do that."
Watch the State of the County address, as well as Patch's interview with Donovan, in two separate videos attached at right. Additionally, Donovan's budget recommendations for 2011 are in the table at the end of this story.
Donovan said before a crowd of about 100 people that, "Times are changing and we just cannot afford business as usual."
"We must and we will continue to look for new ways to save and, to be fiscally prudent, because we are always mindful of the fact that every dollar we spend is your dollar, your hard earned tax dollars," she said.
In a review of her administration's cost-saving measures to this point, Donovan stressed that the county blocked a planned purchase of the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood which "would have cost taxpayers $2.6 million," used brine instead of salt—following the practices of the borough of Westwood—to clean up winter storms, revised its contract with the County Police to save over $2 million as well as spare the jobs of 25 officers, and directed Bergen Community College to cancel a proposal to pay a commencement speaker $25,000 and cancel $160,000 for transit advertising.
"This was a group effort, we all worked together to make these changes, to find savings, eliminate the waste and still provide the level of services Bergen County residents have every right to expect," Donovan said. "We will continue to serve you, and we will do it smarter and more efficiently."
The county has also recalled "hundreds of cars from county employees who had traditonally used them full time," Donovan said.
"We expect to save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by eliminating these take home county cars and providing a limited number of pool cars to be used for official county business," she said.
This spring, the county will initiate a bio-diesel pilot program to reuse waste vegetable oil, with anticipated savings of over $30,000, Donovan said.
The new constituent hot-line, she said, will be answered by county staff members to provide "another way for Bergen County taxpayers to communicate with my office." The hot-line number is 201-336-7330.
"Offer suggestions, ideas, tells us about any problems or complaints, all are welcome and encouraged," Donovan said.
County Freeholder Mauran DeNicola called the county's budget process a "team effort" and said of county headquarters that "we seem to be sleeping here." Here are the county's recommended budget figures for 2011, compared with the figures recommended by the previous administration:DESCRIPTION ADOPTED BUDGET 2010 MCNERNEY SUBMITTED BUDGET, 2011 DONOVAN RECOMMENDED BUDGET, 2011 DIFFERENCE, 2011 (Reduction in parentheses) Legislative Branch $1,444,513 $1,295,273 $1,345,079 $49,806 County Executive $993,315 $1,033,391 $983,683 ($49,708) Administration & Finance $8,443,383 $8,851,386 $8,472,158 ($379,228) Health Department $16,489,316 $19,075,177 $16,557,083 ($2,518,094) Human Services $14,442,748 $15,558,546 $14,433,050 ($1,125,496) Department of Law $1,553,964 $1,714,931 $1,483,120 ($231,811) Law and Public Safety $18,943,035 $21,130,175 $19,695,667 ($1,434,508) Public Works $22,686,597 $24,384,548 $21,725,546 ($2,659,002) Parks $11,031,956 $11,635,544 $10,509,616 ($1,125,928) Planning $2,569,716 $2,303, 568 $2,207,927 ($95,641) Surrogate $1,504,823 $1,533,770 $1,576,617 $42,847 Education $57,583,112 $58,799,168 $54,059,372 ($4,739,796) County Clerk $4,757,762 $4,952,236 $4,686,311 ($265,925) Prosecutor $28,362,886 $29,469,596 $27,900,098 ($1,569,498) Sheriff $58,866,499 $61,958,572 $56,271,587 ($5,686,985) Board of Social Services $12,122,684 $12,326,753 $10,987,592 ($1,339,161) Board of Taxation $573,951 $588,938 $515,013 ($73,925) Board of Elections $1,375,051 $1,990,047 $1,400,435 ($589,612) Superintendent of Elections $1,744,851 $2,045384 $1,812,335 ($233,049) Grants $18,825,095 $18,825,095 $17,483,984 ($1,341,111) Capital Improvement Fund $3,800,000 $3,800,000 $800,000 ($3,000,000) Fiscal Operating Capital $110,000 $110,000 $100,000 ($10,000) Debt $58,053,351 $62,088,250 $62,088,250 0 Def. Charges & Stat. Expense $34,258,362 $39,456,728 $39,334,398 ($122,330) All Insurances $67,013,286 $72,675,277 $69,179,315 ($3,495,962) Matching Funds $250,000 $250,000 $250,000 0 Salary Adj./Reserve $100,000 $100,000 $100,000 0 Reimbursement Res OUT/CTY $140,000 $140,000 $140,000 0 Terminal Pay $1,000,000 $1,000,000 $1,000,000 0 Patients-State Institutions $38,623,053 $38,623,053 $40,489,646 $1,866,593 Total $487,663,309 $517,715,406 $487,587,882 ($30,127,524)