Bid to get NJ native govt to share providers, get monetary savings

Photo credit: Doug Kerr from Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)File Photo: The Town Hall at Cranbury

A key state Senate committee passed law Thursday to make it easier for local governments to save money by bundling services.

The move’s rise from the Senate Budget and Budgets Committee comes days after the release of new statewide data showing that the average property tax in New Jersey rose above $ 9,000 for the first time last year. Local governments in New Jersey rely heavily on property taxes to fund their annual budgets.

The legislation aims, among other things, to remove technical hurdles, including some public service regulations that can prevent local governments from saving money through shared services.

The move would increase the stakes for some New Jersey communities that are not yet using shared services by setting conditions for state aid removal if local officials ignore well-documented savings opportunities.

The bill is one of dozen that have been drafted by the legislature in response to a called report “Path to Progress” This was issued in 2018 by a group of impartial state policy experts asked by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) to review government spending practices and offer ways to save money through reforms.

Senate President Sweeney is delighted

Quoting the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Sweeney said, “It is more important than ever to identify and implement government efficiencies that will bring cost savings to taxpayers.”

“New Jersey property taxes are the highest in the nation, and we all know why,” said Sweeney, who is a primary sponsor of the bill.

Senate President Steve Sweeney is a major sponsor of the measure.

A total of, nearly $ 31 billion Revenue was increased through local property taxes to support county, township and school district spending across the state in 2020. This comes from figures released earlier this month by the Department of Community Affairs.

According to the new data, New Jersey homeowners paid an average property tax of $ 9,112 in 2020. That’s nearly $ 160, or 1.8% more than in 2019.

A 2% cap on annual tax increases decided in 2011 by former Republican Governor Chris Christie in collaboration with Sweeney and other Democrats who control the legislation is believed to have helped slow the growth in property tax bills over the past decade.

With the average bill increasing by more than $ 1,350 since the 2% cap was introduced, finding ways to reduce costs for the state’s many local governments, including through initiatives, remains a key goal for lawmakers for common service.

Make it easy to enter agreements

The measure If the Senate Committee on Budgets and Resources were voted 12-0 on Thursday, it would update the state’s “Unified Joint Services and Consolidation Act” to make it easier for local governments to enter into joint service agreements and joint contracts.

Among other things, the bill provides for a change in the rules that apply to the restructuring of civil servants whose jobs would be affected by a shared services contract. It also seeks to expedite disputes over public service regulations or tenure regulations that have been blamed for previously seeking common service.

If enacted, the bill could ultimately result in the loss of state aid to municipalities that are not yet required to use common services if local officials refuse to accept or at least attempt to adopt recommendations from the state commission on the alignment, reorganization and consolidation of local units to do so results in savings for local taxpayers without sacrificing the quality of services.

Several groups testified in favor of the law at the committee’s review Thursday, including corporate lobbying organizations, whose representatives highlighted the challenges that high property taxes pose for small business owners, including many others struggle to stay profitable amid the ongoing pandemic.

“We support this and want to make sure government is run efficiently, and we’re saving money and reducing costs where we need it,” said Laura Gunn, director of government relations for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

“We know it’s no magic bullet … but this committee, this legislature (and) this state must do whatever it takes to implement structural reforms,” ​​said Chris Emigholz, vice president of government affairs for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

“Small businesses are being killed during this pandemic, and property taxes are often their biggest tax. Anything we can do to move this forward would be great,” he said.