As director of the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, I have worked hard to provide our residents with the outstanding services they deserve while keeping the cost of government in check.
Our AAA bond rating with a stable outlook is the highest possible credit rating available to any government agency. I helped to achieve and maintain this rating by following sound conservative financial practices. There are never any surprises in the county budget. We have kept our tax rate stable because we can carefully plan not just for today, but for the future.
At the same time, we maintain the highest possible services for our residents and our senior citizens. From Meals on Wheels, to health programs and assistance with the Medicare bureaucracy, we are here to help our seniors.
Our Veterans Service Bureau provides assistance for the more than 68,000 veterans that call Ocean County home. Our veterans have sacrificed to serve their country, now it’s our turn to serve them. In addition, we support the many military families stationed at the Joint Base.
I am working closely with our Prosecutor, Joe Coronato, in combating substance abuse in our county. I have supported rehabilitation programs and prevention efforts to protect our families against both illegal drugs and the abuse of prescription drugs. We are enhancing our counseling efforts and working with our schools to protect our children. Prevention and enforcement are only part of the equation. By getting people back to work, hopefully we can lessen the appeal and temptation of illegal drugs.
A continuing issue facing the county in the 21st century is the need for additional high-paying jobs. As liaison to the Ocean County Vocational-Technical Schools, I am implementing a new specialized training program for students about to enter, or re-enter the workforce. This initiative will work with local businesses to provide the kinds of training that employers are looking for in new hires. The benefits are two-fold. First, a trained worker is more likely to find a higher-paying job. Second, a skilled employee pool will help local businesses thrive and strengthen our economy.
In the five years since Superstorm Sandy devastated much of Ocean County, I also formed the Ocean County Department of Business Development and Tourism to assist our small businesses. Today, tourism is growing again and is now a $4.7 billion dollar industry in Ocean County.
I am also working hard along with our state leaders to improve transportation in the county. I have lobbied our Trenton representatives on the importance of widening Route 9, a state highway. The county has invested millions into our road network, but we cannot do it alone. We also need the state’s help to enhance our public transportation system, which could include rail service.