Measures to help counties pay the bills proposed in New Jersey

 New Jersey Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, says county governments need the help the legislation would provide in light of a recent 2 percent limit on municipal tax hikes. (AP file photo)

New Jersey Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, says county governments need the help the legislation would provide in light of a recent 2 percent limit on municipal tax hikes. (AP file photo)

After meeting with county officials over the summer, New Jersey lawmakers are proposing some bipartisan measures to improve the operation of county government.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, said county governments need the help the legislation would provide in light of a recent 2 percent limit on municipal tax hikes.

“Once we put the 2 percent cap in place, all of our municipalities need and depend upon county government,” he said. “So we’re relying more and more on county government and, by doing that, it’s incumbent upon us in the Legislature to recognize that and to provide them some financial relief.”

One of the proposed bills would allow counties to levy a 1 percent hotel tax with the revenue dedicated to offset county spending. Another measure would increase court fees by $5 to help cover the cost of assigning a sheriff’s officer to every courtroom for security.

That couldn’t come at a better time, according to Middlesex County Sheriff Mildred Scott, because a state mandate will require sheriff departments to provide security in all courtrooms by next year.

“Middlesex County has 13 civil courtrooms … we have to have at least one sheriff’s officer in that courtroom,” Scott said Thursday. “I don’t have the manpower to do that … By these bills going forward, it’s going to help us get the money in my budget to do that.”

Legislation would also impose a 2 percent limit on annual budget increases for independent agencies in counties.

Middlesex County Sheriff Mildred Scott says a state mandate will require sheriff departments to provide security in all courtrooms by next year.

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“Middlesex County has 13 civil courtrooms that we have to have at least one sheriff’s officer in that courtroom. I don’t have the manpower to do that because I don’t have the money to do that in my budget. By these bills going forward, it’s going to help us get the money in my budget to do that.”

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