TRENTON, N.J. -Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes said last night the County's capital budget would be reduced by more than $10 million, less than a month after Hughes announced he had directed his administration to dramatically slash the budget.
In an appearance before the Board of Chosen Freeholders Nov. 13, Hughes said the cut came from postponing projects in every area of County government to cut down on spending during the recession.
"When you make promises, you have to keep those promises," Hughes said, referring to his Oct. 16 address to the freeholders in which he said he was seeking at least a $10 million reduction in spending. "This is hopefully what people expect from good government."
The freeholders unanimously approved the sweeping reduction in order to bring the annual capital budget from $56.5 million to $45.9 million.
Mercer County will actually delay approximately $16 million in new spending, the bulk of which was derived from halting planned open space purchases, some Department of Transportation and Infrastructure projects, and various scheduled improvements to County properties such as parks.
Hughes restated the County's commitment to building a new criminal courthouse, however, and in addition to approving the reduced capital budget, the freeholders also approved $4 million in spending for the courthouse project. The first phase of building the new courthouse is already under way.
Hughes gave credit to his Cabinet officers for identifying and postponing non-essential projects in order to keep the County in good financial standing. "I would like to thank the directors of all the departments, who all took a look, and decided what they could delay and what they could live with for the time being," he said.
The freeholder board also voted last night to cancel unexpended balances on projects that were finished years ago, in some cases dating back to 1984. The move will release about $5 million in funds borrowed in the past, which the County will use to pay down its existing debt.