As reported by app.com, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney said he will push for a law aimed at moving the State’s 566 municipalities into shared-service agreements. Sweeney said he would introduce the legislation this week.
The bill is expected to revive the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission (“LUARC”), created some four years ago, but which lost its funding in the current state budget. Under the current proposal, municipalities would be encouraged to come up with shared-services plans. If towns fail to make arrangements to share services, the commission could go into those towns and recommend plans that would be put to voters for approval. Voters would have to approve the measure in order for the municipality to avoid a reduction in state aid corresponding to the amount of money that would have been saved through the shared services agreement.
Although numerous government entities across the state have begun to share services, Sweeney’s plan, if enacted, would represent the first effort by state government to push municipalities to do such things as combine police forces or fire departments, merge garbage pickup, or purchase items in bulk together.
Sweeney, at a meeting with the Editorial Board of the Asbury Park Press, said he also wants to encourage counties to share services. “If you don’t want more cost-effective government, that’s fine, but (the state) shouldn’t be subsidizing it,” Sweeney said. He also said that local voters are often reluctant to approve or support plans that result in the layoffs or demotions of familiar faces in municipal governments.
Sweeney, a former Gloucester County freeholder, noted that he combined that county’s vocational-technical and special services schools to save $1.3 million a year, and instituted a countywide police dispatch system in order to save money. He acknowledged, though, that the police dispatch initiative took eight years to implement and more work needs to be done. He also said he though it would be too soon for the shared-services proposals to be put to local voters this year.
Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Governor Chris Christie, said the Republican would consider Sweeney’s plan and judge it on the details, but also wanted the Democrat-controlled Legislature to pass more of Christie’s so-called tool kit bills also aimed at reducing property taxes.