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New Jersey’s Latest Experiment In Shared Services [AUDIO]

Governor Chris Christie says one of his priorities this fall is to sign legislation that would encourage towns to share services.

Flickr User Srqpix

Recent reports show more and more towns are turning to sharing court services to save property taxpayers some money. It doesn’t work for every municipality.

There are two things to keep in mind when thinking about sharing services says Bill Dressel, executive director with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

He explains, “One; it’s either going to maintain the level of service or improve the level of service and two; it’s going to reduce taxes.”

Many local officials have resisted sharing services for a variety of reasons including residents who want to keep their town’s identity and there are also those who are concerned that sharing services will lead to lay-offs of public employees because towns will be doing more with less.

Dressel says, “Collaborative agreements, the sharing of services is something that should be looked at. It should be carefully studied……They have to be able to look at whether or not the participating town is going to save money and be able to provide adequate services.”

Sharing court services is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Dressel says two neighboring towns in Hunterdon County recently scrapped the move after discovering they could not provide adequate services for their residents.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney sponsors a bill that would require New Jersey’s Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC) to study local government units (county government, municipal government, school districts) to determine where taxpayer dollars could be saved through sharing of services.

If the study shows that a savings can be realized through sharing that service in one or more local governments, the question of whether to do so or not would be put to a public referendum in all municipalities involved. If the towns involved fail to pass the proposal, they would be subject to losing state aid in the amount equal to what they would have saved had they shared the service. If one town approves it but another denies it, only the town that denied it would lose aid.

“It’s about sharing services,” explains Sweeney. “For years we had programs that we give you money if you would share. Didn’t work…..We tried the nice way of giving you money and people wouldn’t take it to share. Now, my approach quite honestly is the stick approach. If you don’t share we’re going to reduce your state aid. Then for the people in the local community, there’s no State involvement, there’s no State money. They want more expensive government? They got it!”

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