The Associated Press recently reported that a state council on Wednesday, October 22, 2008, struck down New Jersey’s plan to have rural towns pay for the state police coverage that they receive due to the fact that the town’s do not have their own police force. The New Jersey Council on Local Mandates effectively voided a plan contained in Gov. Jon Corzine’s budget that would have charged small towns who don’t have their own police force but instead are provided with public safety coverage by the New Jersey State Police. Corzine has stated that this loss of revenue would have to be absorbed by further cuts in municipal aid.
The Council, which is an independent body created to review the constitutionality of state laws and regulations, said the requirement to force towns to pay for state police was an illegal unfunded mandate. Under New Jersey’s Constitution, the Council’s decision is final.
Seventy-six New Jersey towns get full-time state police patrols free, while 13 get free part-time patrols, regardless of size, population, taxes and wealth.
This is an interesting proposition as it could be an integral part of the continued push to consolidate municipal services and benefits. As a tax saving measure the Governor’s office has already started an initiative to consolidate smaller school districts within the state. Public services will certainly follow. While a reduction of officers on the road is unlikely, it is not too speculative to state that the suggestion of sharing administrative duties between departments may be viewed as a feasible cost saving measure. As the budget gets tighter, taxes go higher, and there is a continual cry from the public for assistance; we may see novel propositions that can have an effect upon the employment of public safety officers and the administrators of public safety departments. Let’s keep an eye on this one.