Murphy joins call for countywide school districts in two counties
The Murphy administration is beginning to unveil a series of initiatives aimed at dealing with property taxes, from more efforts to encourage shared services to the possibility of moving toward countywide school districts.
At a symposium Tuesday at Drew University, Gov. Phil Murphy told local officials the Department of Community Affairs will hire two staffers assigned to developing shared-services agreements: one focused on risk management and procurement, the other to work on personnel matters.
“They will play a crucial role in helping more communities complete agreements without the need for high-cost feasibility studies,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the goal is to get 10 more agreements in place by May.
“I am not naïve in thinking that shared services will be the cure and the be-all and end-all to our long-simmering property tax crisis," Murphy said.
"But every percentage point we can shave is real tax relief,” he said. "Anything we can do across communities, between communities and counties, that can help tick that number down.”
New Jersey has the nation’s highest average property tax bill, approaching $8,700 last year.
Murphy said that in his budget speech, scheduled for Feb. 26, he plans to include three areas of local services that can be transferred to counties or large cities, with the candidates including options such as dispatch, procurement, permitting and public health.
“I’ll also ask the Legislature to work with me to create a new pilot program for two countywide school districts,” said Murphy.
That would seem to sync up with a recommendation from the Economic and Fiscal Policy Working Group organized by Senate President Steve Sweeney. The working group also called for merging all schools into K-12 districts.
Murphy said he will also ask the Legislature to consider requiring regular meetings of county, municipal and school officials at which prospects for sharing services can be discussed.
Murphy also signed a law Tuesday adding Monmouth and Atlantic counties to an existing pilot program that allows municipalities to enter into agreements that permit the sharing of services provided by certain municipal officials.
Camden, Morris, Ocean, Sussex, and Warren counties are already in the program.