The Camden County Board of Freeholders gave preliminary approval Tuesday to an 8 percent increase in the county's property-tax rate for 2011, after having laid off more than 250 employees this year.
The county's portion of a property-tax bill on a $150,000 home would increase from about $915 a year to about $990. Those figures do not include the county's open-space tax rate, which has not yet been decided.
County Administrator Ross Angilella attributed the increase to a variety of factors, including a $2 billion decrease in the county's property-tax base, falling fees, and rising costs in such areas as energy and employee benefits.
The tax increase, which would fall below Gov. Christie's property-tax cap, comes as local governments across the state are answering to residents over maintaining some of the highest property-tax rates in the country. Christie's cap applies to the tax levy - the total amount of property taxes a local government collects - and not the rate. Also, exemptions are made for money dedicated to such areas as employee health care and paying down debt.
At the same time, government officials say, revenue is eroding, prompting widespread layoffs of public-sector workers, including police and firefighters, once considered untouchable.
Property values in Camden County have dropped $2 billion over the last two years, to $41 billion, according to the county. Over that same period, the amount of property taxes collected has increased from $242.2 million to $271.6 million.
Freeholder Ed McDonnell said that budget increases despite a steady reduction in staff over the last five years were frustrating.
"Costs aren't getting any cheaper," he said.
Camden County has been hit especially hard, a fact Angilella attributed in an interview Tuesday to having lowered the tax levy in earlier years instead of running up surpluses for a rainy day.
Taxpayers will likely notice the cuts in the $323 million budget, to be formally introduced Thursday.
The county has 22 furlough days planned for this year, during which many county offices will shut down. The county's concert schedule has been scaled back, including the cancellation of the July Fourth concert. And senior day care, once offered for free, now will require a fee.
But layoffs at the Prosecutor's Office, which officials there argued would threaten public safety in Camden and its suburbs, were significantly reduced when freeholders agreed to trim the department's budget cut this month.