Tuesday, March 24, 2015

ARE SHARED SERVICES AND MUNICIPAL CONSOLIDATION THE SAME?

Many elected officials, lobbyists, taxpayers and the media have trouble answering this question. So let's see if there is a difference.
Sharing an employee or service:
Shared Service- If a town is too small for a full time Health Officer or Recreational Director then 2 or more towns can share an employee or share the service. 
Requirements:  A negotiated contract for which town pays the employee, salary, benefits, and what percentage would each town pay, etc.
Consolidation - One employee, no legal review.

Sharing equipment:
Shared Service- Towns that are too small to purchase a street sweeper, sewer truck, etc. can purchase equipment together to save taxpayer dollars.
Requirements:  A negotiated contract on which town pays insurance, stores the equipment and who is responsible for scheduling the use of the equipment. etc. 
Consolidation - The town is large enough to need and purchase the equipment

Share purchasing of supplies:
Shared Service - It is much cheaper if towns buy larger amounts of salt or gasoline. So they make contracts together for purchasing materials at a lower price.  
Consolidation - Even greater savings possible when they share even larger amounts, with no legal expenses.

Sharing Police:
Shared Service - Two or more towns would form a shared Police dept. The law that allows this is called the 'Joint Meeting'. However this forces towns to create another governing body to oversee the shared police dept.  The police then report to their own governing body and to the 'Joint Meeting'.  (This law has many flaws and really needs to be fixed. )
Not one Joint Meeting Police shared service has been formed yet.
Consolidation - One unified Police force that can use this opportunity to innovate and create a brand new Police dept. to better serve and meet the needs of their community.

Mayors and Governing Bodies:
Shared Services - 565 Mayors, 3,000 Council/Committee members and 1,000's of negotiated contracts with ongoing legal review and associated costs. 
Consolidation - Fewer than 250 Mayors, fewer than 1,500 Council/Committee members and fewer negotiated contracts.  One time consolidation implementation costs which can be spread over 5 years and the State will cover 20% or the first year cost. 

More on this topic on my next blog!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Death by Home Rule?



“Home Rule” -- These are two words that have held NJ back for decades.  Ask a Mayor why they can’t share major services; “Home Rule”.  Ask anyone in the state why municipal consolidation will not happen and the response is “Home Rule”.  Why are these two words so effective in stopping change?   

Home Rule is created by 565 arbitrary boundary lines that create an Us vs. Them mentality.  These town lines were created for reasons that we can’t remember and are not relevant today.  Do we want to pay the price for the arbitrary borders that were made over 100 years ago?

Home Rule has forced us into tiny, inefficient towns.  Towns around the state are facing massive sewage, road, water, transportation and infrastructure issues.  Dwindling surpluses leave towns in a precarious condition.  With the 2% cap, numerous state mandates and stagnant state funding, our local governments have little real control.

Home Rule forces us to address these issues piecemeal.  The problems facing NJ and municipalities cannot be addressed by 565 mostly weak and small governments competing against each other for diminishing resources. 

Home Rule – Two words that continue the escalation of property taxes, weaken our ability to address our aging infrastructure and stifle innovation.  These two words prevent finding any regional approaches to our problems.  These two words complicate economic development and make it hard for businesses to do business in New Jersey.

What other two words could open the door to possibilities?  “Better Together” (It’s a great book by the way.)  Together we can create larger, stronger local governments.  We can use the savings from consolidation and regionalization to pay for infrastructure improvements, make transportation issues easier and reduce the number of people in our stressed pension system.

If we come together, we will have options available.  We can use innovation to solve problems and create a sustainable future.

Home Rule or Better Together?  Which two words do you choose?