N.J. may penalize towns for not sharing

New Jersey lawmakers have advanced legislation that would encourage New Jersey towns to share services.

The measure, sponsored by state Senate President Steve Sweeney, calls for towns where voters reject proposals by a state commission to share services to have their state aid reduced by the amount of money that sharing would have saved.

“They look for us for aid to reduce property taxes,” Sweeney said. “If they’re not willing to do it themselves, how do you expect us to continue to give the same amount of resources to continue the same more costly, less effective government?”

Civil service rules would be suspended for employees involved in any services to be combined and then restored after the merger.

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That, Sweeney said, would remove a barrier local officials cite for not sharing with a neighboring community.

“What we would do is lift civil service, not eliminate it, put the new entity back together, and then place civil service back on it,” he said. “And it’s only for what that area of merger is. It’s not for the whole government.”

That part of the plan is sound, according to Bill Dressel, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

He’s not in favor, however, of the provision for reducing state aid to towns where voters reject shared services proposals made by a state commission

“It will go a little bit too far, I think, in imposing the stick if you don’t happen to vote they way a bureaucratic agency in Trenton would be asking them to be,” Dressel said.

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