If a fire breaks out at your home or business, how would you feel about paying a "user fee" to have the local fire department or EMT squad respond to the emergency?

Atlantic City and Bloomfield have already passed ordinances creating "emergency response fees," and several other Jersey towns are thinking about doing the same thing.

Bill Dressel, the Executive Director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities said, "It's indicative of the times in which we live. Local elected officials are scrutinizing every part of the budget to try to see how they can recoup some of the costs; every line item in the municipal budget, every program service is being evaluated as to what the costs are, and whether or not there is a cheaper way of providing that service."

"This is being looked at by many towns across the state, as to whether or not it's appropriate to be able to charge the homeowner or the business as costs to respond to an emergency. These kinds of things are being explored up and down the state, irrespective of size, irrespective of geography or politics or anything else."

"Local officials, first and foremost, have an obligation if not a moral responsibility to provide public quality of life services. And they're looking at ways they can do that, and at the same time be sensitive to property taxes," Dressel explains, "Local officials are trying make sure that in these dire economic times that the residents are not going to be over-taxed for these services."

He points out exploring user fees is something that is being looked at. It's a local decision, but people need to remember local officials have their backs against the wall.

"The demands are for them to be able to provide adequate service levels, and at the same time they're being forced to reduce their costs. You have a two percent cap, you have a reduction in your traditional state funding programs and you've got state mandated imposed costs, so literally your backs are against the wall in trying to deal with essential quality of life services. So municipalities are exploring such things as fees for emergency services which would have been unheard of years ago, but you've got to look at the greater good, and how will you be able to provide those services and be able to pay for them and be able to be sensitive to high property taxes."