TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator John H. Adler which would allow municipalities which share courtroom facilities and support staff to maintain separate judges was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Service-sharing should be encouraged at every level of government in New Jersey to help control soaring costs and protect burdened property taxpayers,” said Senator Adler, D-Cherry Hill. “However, thanks to a quirk in the current setup, municipalities have been hesitant to share court services, because it would mean giving up local control of municipal judges. Under this measure, we’re paving the way for shared services for towns which might be leery about giving up their local judges.”
The bill, S-335, would amend the current law which governs shared services agreements between municipalities in New Jersey. Under the current law, if municipalities enter into an agreement to share municipal court services, they are bound by the law to also share the judge. This bill allows municipalities to tailor their shared services agreements in such a way that courtroom administration and facilities may be shared, but each individual municipality still has the authority to maintain its own judge.
“I think that some local officials are very concerned that a shared judge might not represent the town’s best interests,” said Senator Adler. “We can still see massive savings by allowing locally-appointed judges to preside over shared courtrooms. This bill removes a deterrent for municipalities which may be looking for cost savings, but cannot make the leap to give up control over their local judges.”
Senator Adler noted that this bill reflects his continuing efforts to provide cost savings for New Jersey’s taxpayers through rational consolidation and shared services. He added that in addition to coaxing local officials to share services, the State needs to do more to require regionalization agreements which mean lasting relief from soaring property taxes.
“This is just the beginning,” said Senator Adler. “New Jersey needs to do more to ensure real, sustained savings for taxpayers who’ve been mugged by the needlessly high cost of government in this State. As we move forward, we need to put a greater focus on more efficient government, not just more government.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.