Lawmakers may pressure N.J. towns to share services

The leader of the state Senate wants to give local governments in New Jersey more incentive to share services.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said Tuesday he’s working on legislation that would withhold state funds from towns that don’t move ahead with sharing arrangements that could save money.

Somerset County Freeholder Peter Palmer said there has been reluctance by some communities to share services.

“I don’t think you’re going to lose identity. You’re going to lose control and that’s what’s paramount in many peoples’ minds,” said Palmer.

Many towns in the state already share some services and personnel.

Amplifying that cooperation could mean a big difference for Camden. Sweeney said having a countywide police force in Camden County could cut costs.

“Camden County has 37 towns. Do you need 37 police chiefs? This isn’t insulting or attacking anyone. It’s just that the people of New Jersey are spending more money than the need on taxes now,” said Sweeney. “The one way to actually squeeze down the dollars is by starting to eliminate the duplicative administrative functions.”

He said having a countywide police force in Camden County could also result in increased patrols.

“What you’re actually going to do is cut the administrative costs which will allow more people on the street as officers and that’s the important thing,” he said. “Sharing services can mean more police officers on the street, not less. It just means less people in an office.”

Salem County Freeholder Director Lee Ware said the loss of state funds for not sharing services may encourage more municipalities to do so.

“We’re in our middle of our budgetary process right now and we’re in trouble like every other county, so you have to share. You have to merge, you have to consolidate, or you’re going to lose programs and jobs.”

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