What to expect in 2023 if you live in Ocean County, NJ
🔵 Ocean County Commissioner Director Joe Vicari lays out priorities for 2023
🔵 How much will inflation impact Ocean County's budget and tourism this year
🔵 The delays on road projects impacting Ocean County drivers and commuters
Ocean County has become more and more of a destination to live, work, and vacation in over the years and that's likely to grow this year.
Services for senior citizens in Ocean County
In a New Jersey County heading towards a population of 650,000 people, about a quarter are senior citizens and providing them with the services they need is among the top priorities for Ocean County government leaders in 2023.
"We're going to implement a program with $7.5-million worth of new and continuing programs for our senior citizens," Ocean County Commissioner Director Joe Vicari said. "We have the highest number of seniors in the state of New Jersey -- 200,000 -- and as they age, we want to make sure we still provide quality services for all of our senior citizens."
Inside the $7.5 million the county is and will be spending on programs and services for senior citizens is one that is appropriating $3.4 million to Community Services Inc. which provides meals and meal services for these members of the community.
"We know with high inflation -- the highest it's been in 40 years -- that it's very difficult for not only our seniors, but for working people to purchase food," Vicari said. "We make sure we give our seniors nutritional food."
Through this program, Ocean County delivered 307,450 meals in 2022 and they expect to deliver around 324,000 in 2023.
Ocean County Tourism impacts in 2023.
Tourism is a critical part of the economy in Ocean County and in turn, the state of New Jersey as well, which relies heavily on what happens every summer in the four Shore counties.
Ocean County Commissioner Director Joe Vicari says it's their largest industry and a $7 billion dollar one at that with 98 percent of people working in tourism being at small businesses.
"It provides jobs, job opportunities, but also, it gives people a lot of things to do in Ocean County without traveling outside (the area)," Vicari said.
There is a concentrated focus on creating and sustaining job growth to help the local economy grow in Ocean County which has a population that doubles in size to around 1.3 million people over the summer months.
"We are 10 percent of the entire state of New Jersey in land and water, we are number 5 in population and are growing very, very rapidly and more and more people are staying in Ocean County in their summer homes," Vicari said.
There were more people coming back to the Jersey Shore last summer with lowering fears and lower cases related to the Covid pandemic and higher inflation may have kept some people close to home.
In Ocean County, Commissioner Director Joe Vicari said 2022 featured a successful summer.
"People came from all over, they wanted to get out of the house, they went all over, they went on the boardwalk and our small businesses did very well," Vicari said. "We anticipate getting over $7 billion in business when the numbers come in."
Director Vicari believes Ocean County will do even better in the summer of 2023 with bringing in jobs and bringing in an increased amount of revenue.
Ocean County Commissioners working on making budget affordable for taxpayers.
While tourism provides a major haul for Ocean County each year, there are other elements of the local economy that need to do well to help out taxpayers.
As they prepare the budget for 2023, Ocean County Commissioner Director Joe Vicari says that you can expect to see a drop in the tax rate for a seventh consecutive year.
"We control all spending, we consolidate our programs, and we make sure that it's a great place, not only for families to live, but anyone in Ocean County, and to encourage new investments into Ocean County," Vicari said. "We realize the importance of people paying their bills and especially keeping their house, paying their rents, and the most important thing that people have right now is putting food on the table. When they go shopping, they see the price of food every week going up and it's becoming a major problem for all the residents in Ocean County, so, therefore, it's vital for us to keep spending under control and also at the same time, to cut the tax rate again."
Several Ocean County roads are in need of repairs or upgrades.
There are many local, county, and state roads running across Ocean County that are in repair or being upgraded or there is a dire need for work to be done in that particular area and chief among them is Route 9 north.
"The state of New Jersey has control of Route 9, (I'm) very disappointed that the state has not made this a priority, it's the same as 1929 and we hope that when you talk to your state legislators and the governor, you say, 'let's do more for Route 9'," Vicari said. "The rest of the county program with our road department will be moving ahead and improvements will be there."