Ocean County Freeholder Director Joe Vicari previews 2020 in OC
Ocean County continues to grow, develop and expand with everything from infrastructure to residents to summer tourism and more, so what can we expect to see as 2020 gets underway?
At the dawn of the new year each municipality, county government and state government offices reorganizes with swearing-in ceremonies and meetings as they put together an agenda for 2020.
Ocean County Freeholder's Ginny Haines and Jack Kelly are coming off a November 2019 election victory to remain on the board alongside Gerry Little, Joe Vicari and Gary Quinn.
This year, Freeholder Gary Quinn will be the Deputy Director of the Board and Freeholder Joe Vicari will be the Director for the 12th time in his 39-year tenure in 2020.
There's a lot going on in 2020 and much still to be done to address challenges and keep everyone safe and happy with all the land, stores, water, beaches and more Ocean County has to offer locals and tourists.
There are certain challenges which continue to be addressed including affordability.
Freeholder Director Vicari says the good news is we have one of the lowest tax rates in the state and he plans to keep it that way in 2020.
"Over the last several years the tax rate went down and I anticipate dropping the tax rate again in 2020, but how do we keep it low? We keep it low by controlling the spending by putting plans in place where the cost of government does not go up," Vicari said.
He says Ocean County is very fiscally conservative when it comes to spending.
As we head thru 2020 and this year's budget is prepared, Freeholder Vicari says the budget approach remains the status quo with no surprises.
"We live within our budget. We watch the tax rate, drop it a little bit so people pay less on the tax rate and we also make sure we don't spend too much money or borrow too much money. We don't print money like in Washington or spend money like in Trenton, so we live within our means."
Ocean County is also home to the largest senior population in the state of New Jersey which include two of the most senior populated towns in the state in Berkeley and Manchester.
"We have close to 200,000 senior citizens, we must make sure they live with dignity and independence," Vicari said. "The people of Ocean County realize we must take care of our senior citizens."
A major challenge heading into 2020 is that funding for two important senior programs has been cut by the state which Vicari says includes providing home health aide services for senior citizens.
Over the next several months Vicari said that, "every week 50-senior citizens will not get a health aid to come to their house to help them and to take care of them and it makes them vulnerable to fall. They won't be able to take care of themselves and in many cases they will wind up in a nursing home or in the hospital."
Freeholder Vicari said he's written a personal letter to Governor Murphy asking for a restoration of funds for state funded senior programs.
Maria LaFace, Director of the Ocean County Office of Senior Services, said that JACC is a state funded program that provides a broad array of in-home services to enable an individual at risk of placement in a nursing facility and who meets the income requirement, to remain in their community home.
Ocean County is set to lose $249,538 in 2020 JACC funding under the new state plan.
The county has also been providing home health aide services and adult day care services for 40 years using Title 20 funding through the state Division of Disability Services.
“We just received notice that this funding will end as of June 30, 2020 and the provider stands to lose $460,000,” Vicari said.
On average Visiting Home Care Services (VHS) has been providing approximately 300 hours a week of home health aide services under Title 20 grant funds.
On December 4 the Freeholders unanimously agreed to send a resolution to the governor asking that these cuts be reinstated.
“The state and federal governments cannot balance their budgets on the backs of our seniors,” Vicari said. “It has to stop.”
Meanwhile, Vicari, who is also the liaison to buildings and grounds, explains that each year brings on new building and road work to help keep things running smoothly.
The biggest road project that took place and wrapped up in 2019 in Ocean County was the work being done along Route 37 and 166 in Toms River.
"Every year there's always a project, there's 135 buildings that are getting older, there's always a new roof, always a heating and air-conditioning system...so the work is ongoing," Vicari said.
He adds that their roadwork policy is to work with the different towns across Ocean County so they have input as to what's going on in their municipality.
Freeholder Director Vicari explains more about what to expect in 2020: