By Thomas A. Arnone
Let me start by commending all of the Monmouth County Parks system employees for putting together an amazing tribute ceremony honoring those who were directly and/or indirectly affected by the tragedies that took place on 9/11 some 11 years ago.
It was an amazing event held at Mount Mitchell Scenic Overlook in Atlantic Highlands. This memorable ceremony was attended by more than 450 people including dignitaries from all levels of government. I was honored to be able to participate and to have the opportunity to once again reflect on the events that took place on that horrible day.
We need not to forget that time in history, not only for the sake of loved ones lost, but for the future of our children and our children’s children. Although I am of the belief that in most cases repeatedly looking over your shoulder usually gets in the way of progressing ahead, this is undoubtedly one instance in which circumstances necessitate for all eyes to be open and all hearts to be filled with the understanding of the pride that comes from being a citizen of this great country.
For on that particular evening last week, I found myself filled with both sympathy and immense pride as I stood alongside my family and friends, my fellow freeholders and the residents of this outstanding county as I embraced the realization of all the greatness that can only come from being an American. Let us never let the dream die!
The summer is over and the season is changing but with it comes great news for Monmouth County and this time for Asbury Park in particular. The Christie Administration has announced the award of a $50,000 grant to Asbury Park for boardwalk reconstruction. The grant is being administered by NJDOT (state Department of Transportation) through the Local Aid Infrastructure Fund (LAIF) program. The Local Aid Infrastructure Fund grants enable municipalities to make much needed improvements with zero burden on the local property taxpayers. The LAIF grants range from $37,000 to $430,000 and have been awarded to municipalities in 13 different counties.
These grants will fund a variety of projects that include repairs to streets, drainage systems, a railroad crossing and this year the Asbury Park Boardwalk. The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders is grateful for the support of the Christie Administration in helping us to continue to make Monmouth County the place you want to be.
In other news, last week a shared-services presentation was conducted providing information regarding the Monmouth County Online Tax Appeal System. As liaison to the Monmouth County Shared Services department, I am pleased to report that this service has proven to be extremely beneficial to our municipalities. Over the past several years, it has been thoroughly tested throughout the county, and has been so well received that by year’s end, we anticipate having all 53 Monmouth County municipalities voluntarily participating in the program.
A little background on this particular shared service: It allows for county residents to go online 24/7 in the convenience of their home and file a tax appeal electronically allowing for the elimination of paper storage and waste which is not only a convenience but a great savings in storage and paper costs. This electronic system also reduces costs and eliminates redundancies at the county and local levels for clerks, administrators, tax assessors and residents alike by reducing staff time required to file and manage the ongoing paper filing appeals process.
Moreover, this system has been developed to be extremely user friendly and anyone with basic computer skills and Internet access can participate. Help is available from the county tax administrator, if needed. For those without Internet access, there are free computers at county and local libraries. Based on this, the board of chosen freeholders decided to offer this wonderful shared service to other New Jersey counties.
What a tremendous opportunity to increase revenues here at home and in addition expand the savings opportunities for taxpayers across the state. To sum it up, the recently conducted Online Tax Appeal System presentation was an overall success with representation from top county officials that included Atlantic, Bergen, Gloucester, Hudson, Somerset and Union counties.
And there is yet more exciting news concerning Shared Services in and for Monmouth County. Recently we were contacted by Cumberland County in Maine as they are now exploring the concept of shared services and are looking to create the first model for shared services in the state of Maine. We couldn’t be happier that they have selected Monmouth County as the model for shared services to pursue due to its ability to provide services at a more affordable rate while also covering expenses and raising revenues at the county level.
Our Monmouth County model is truly unique and has been so successful here at home that it is now being recognized by several other states and Canadian provinces as well.
Last but certainly not least, another point of interest: the workforce investment board is partnering with the board of chosen freeholders and is gearing up to hold its annual job fair. This year’s job fair is scheduled to take place on Sept. 21 at the police academy in Freehold. The event will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is open to all job seekers. More than 95 businesses have registered for the event so far. All of which must have active job openings.
Thomas Arnone is deputy director of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.