As a group of 7, the Bergen County Freeholder Board annually – in the Spring – takes a budget submitted by the County Executive (who currently is from the same political party as All 7 Freeholders)) and they determine whether you and the the 900 thousand other residents of Bergen County are going to get – and pay for – the same or more or less of the services and capital programs the County government provided the previous year.
In the end these 7 Freeholders will decide at what tax rate the County’s taxable resources (more than $165 Billion dollars) should be taxed to support a budget that provides those services. And as compared to much that goes on at the State and Federal levels, these decisions really will affect you. And then after they, by majority vote, adopt an annual budget, they will – much more rigorously than is the case in many municipalities – approve specific expenditures or contracts. Often the Freeholders approve specific expenditures or contracts or project only after careful questioning of the county employee who has proposed a specific resolution or ordinance – with the goal of assuring that the County is getting its money’s worth.
Want to see what got authorized or got spent this year or last? Then just click here – to be taken to to the County web page where you can access the full County budget, the audit and many other key County financial documents? (Note the full document may go directly to your download file from which you can bring them up and save them ).
Passing a budget is just the first step. however. How do the Freeholders actually track the use of the budget they approve?
Very few people in the County ever witness how all this actually happens. If you are one of the few thousands who will have attended a Wednesday night session of the Freeholders to lobby or protest or raise an alarm – during the public input session – on a specific issue or program, you will almost certainly not have seen where the decision REALLY got made. Still the evening sessions ARE, after some delay, on tape and available (click here).
But the real work of the Freeholders is done on Wednesday afternoons – from 4:30 to whenever. And the local media often report on both afternoon and evening sessions. Still, when you understand where and how the process actually works, you will likely have a better sense of who you want your vote to help “put” in that room of 7 Freeholders and also whether you will want to be in that room yourself when issues of concern to you are on the agenda. Agenda? – where is that? (click here). Since the afternoon meetings are governed by the Open Public Meetings Act, but are not yet simultaneously available on the internet, BGR developed a 15 minute video to give you some sense of part of what happens in those meetings.
Click the arrow > below. And to see this best (particularly on a small screen) be sure after it opens to click the dashed rectangle on the right side bottom of the video picture. It opens to your full screen. And just hit your esc to return to the normal sized post.