By Freeholder Tom Arnone
Happy New Year! Last week I was sworn into my third term as Freeholder and I am excited and grateful to continue to serve the residents of Monmouth County. I would like to thank my family for their support and my fellow Freeholders for their continued dedication to our County.
I would like to congratulate my running mates, Freeholder Serena DiMaso, Sheriff Shaun Golden and Surrogate Rosemarie Peters on their well-deserved re-elections. I would also like to congratulate Lillian Burry on her selection as the 2017 Freeholder Director and John Curley on his selection as Freeholder Deputy Director. I look forward to working with you both, and the entire Freeholder Board in the coming year. As always, I would like to wish all of our mayors best of luck as we begin the New Year.
2016 was a tough year, but overall it was a successful year and I am proud to have served as the Freeholder Director during a year with so many great accomplishments. We began 2016 with the sale of the care centers, which provided a great tax burden relief to the County and paved the way for the Freeholder Board to reduce the County budget by $18.2 million and return spending to levels not seen since 2007.
The 2016 budget continued the efforts of the Freeholder Board to decrease spending while meeting its obligation to fund mandated cost increases. The budget was the result of all offices and departments working together and understanding the important role they play in providing cost-effective services and fulfilled the Freeholder Board’s promise to reduce taxes.
Something I am very proud of, and something I began to work on 17 years ago, is the dredging of the Shark River, which was completed as of December 31, 2016. This came as the result of the tireless work that included a partnership including the State of New Jersey, especially Senator Jen Beck, Monmouth County, Neptune Township, in particular former Committeeman Randy Bishop, Neptune City, Wall Township and the Borough of Belmar.
Another great accomplishment of 2016 was the County’s role in the sale of Fort Monmouth. I commend Freeholder Burry for bringing attention to the Freeholder Board that the County could potentially assist in securing the financing for the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, commonly known as FMERA, to acquire the Fort Monmouth property.
In 2017, we can look forward to continuing some of the great initiatives of 2016 and the start of new ones. We have already hit the ground running with the traffic signal activation on January 10 at the intersection of County Route 16 (Asbury Avenue) and Foxchase Drive/Cannonball Drive in Tinton Falls.
We will continue working on our Grown in Monmouth and Made in Monmouth initiatives.
Grown in Monmouth is a program that Freeholder Burry and I have worked on to bring attention to the great agricultural products of Monmouth County.
Another initiative I am very passionate about is helping residents live a healthy lifestyle and working towards this by bringing our Grown in Monmouth initiative into schools and educating residents on the importance of good nutrition, physical activity and a healthy body weight to help decrease the increasing obesity, heart disease and diabetes rates in Monmouth County. Stay tuned for more about this exciting initiative as we head into 2017.
Made in Monmouth will return to Monmouth University on Saturday, April 8 and I can’t wait to see how much this event grows this year, as it has every year since its inception. The Made in Monmouth event gets great praise from both residents and our local businesses. Make sure to mark your calendars now.
This year we, the Freeholders, are going to continue to work towards stabilizing taxes and making Monmouth County the most affordable County in New Jersey. Many politicians make these promises, but here in Monmouth County, we keep them.
Thank you for your continued support and I look forward to serving you in 2017.