Senate President Says Counties, Municipalities, School Districts Already Have Tools To Make Greatest Impact on Property Taxes
TRENTON – Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney today reiterated that the Senate will act on needed reforms to the state’s binding arbitration and civil service laws, saying legislation to enact those reforms will be introduced and moved by the Senate State Government Committee early next month, with final votes in the Senate to be scheduled for Nov 22.
Saying the Governor is vastly overestimating the impact his so-called property tax “tool kit” will have on local levies, Sweeney said the Governor should stop overselling and start pushing municipal and county leaders toward entering into shared service agreements and begin exploring municipal consolidations and regionalized services.
“The simple and inconvenient truth for the Governor is that even if every item in his tool kit was enacted yesterday, property taxes would not be any lower today, tomorrow, next week or next year,” said Sweeney. “Some of these items can have some long-term savings, but the vast majority of these ideas are merely tinkering in the margins. The Governor needs to come clean with residents – the tool kit isn’t the end-all, be-all he says it is.”
While the arbitration and civil service reforms will put towns on a more even footing with public employee unions, Sweeney said the ultimate responsibility for controlling property taxes still lies with local officials who more often work to protect insular self-interests rather than look to join with neighboring communities to deliver services in a more cost-effective and efficient manner.
“Shared services and consolidations are the most powerful tools possible to control property taxes, but that option has often been ignored by the same local officials who protest the loudest that they can’t stay under cap,” said Sweeney. “Instead of pushing those local officials to do what’s right by property taxpayers, the Governor has decided to create division.”
Sweeney highlighted a recent analysis of Gloucester County’s implementation of shared services and regionalization that showed municipal savings of nearly $24.4 million countywide – a savings of 18 cents off the average local property tax rate countywide. Shared and regionalized services include 911 dispatching, tax assessing, stormwater management, EMS, trash disposal savings, animal control, deer carcass removal and health department inspections. In Franklin Township alone, participation in shared services has saved taxpayers 19.75 cents off the average property tax rate; Glassboro property taxpayers realized savings of more than 35 cents.
In addition, more than $4 million in savings was realized from increased sharing among Gloucester County agencies, and intra-county program savings yielded an additional $1.8 million.
Sweeney said the Governor has lost sight of the need to reform and restructure the way local governments deliver services.
“The Governor is not shy to use his office as a bully pulpit,” said Sweeney. “It’s about time he stopped using it to hock a tool kit that will save property taxpayers a few pennies and start using it to push counties, towns, schools districts to work together to save some real money.”