TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Vin Gopal that would generate taxpayer savings and promote government efficiency through greater use of shared services by local governments was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
“Identifying and implementing government efficiencies that will produce cost savings for taxpayers is more important than ever as we seek to recover from the economic hardships suffered by so many businesses and people as a result of the pandemic,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “Property taxes in New Jersey are the highest in the nation, and we all know why.
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“We are a high-income, densely populated, high cost-of-living state with an economy competing on jobs and salaries with New York City and Philadelphia. But adding to the complexity and difficulty is the fact that we have 565 municipalities, more than 600 school districts, 21 county governments and hundreds of authorities responsible for delivering government services. That’s why increasing shared services at the local level is so important and such a critical tool in controlling property taxes,” he said.
The bill, S-1, would modify the “Uniform Shared Services and Consolidation Act” to encourage and facilitate the provision of local and regional services through shared service agreements and joint contracts. It would allow New Jersey’s Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC) to study municipal governments to determine where taxpayer dollars could be saved through shared services.
“Sharing public services as a way to govern more responsibly is not a new concept in New Jersey, but it is more important than ever, especially today when local governments are striving to deliver services in the midst of a pandemic,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth), a chief co-sponsor of the bill. “We continue to look for ways to encourage shared services agreements, and support our towns and counties who are thinking outside the box in order to enhance services for residents through the efficient use of tax dollars.”
Among other provisions, the bill would make it easier for municipalities that choose to share services to reorganize Civil Service employees, creating greater efficiency. This would address a concern raised by local government leaders that Civil Service rules serve as a barrier to sharing services. The bill would expedite the resolution of disputes over Civil Service rules and tenure provisions in the context of shared services agreements and joint contracts.