TRENTON – Senator Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, a member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Government Consolidation and Shared Services, issued the following statement today regarding the panel’s hearing on shared municipal services:
“Today’s discussion on fire district consolidation illustrated the benefits of shared municipal services, and the roadblocks keeping fire districts from consolidating under the current system.
“It seems from the testimony presented today that the key to success for many of these consolidation agreements seems to be that it was the right people pushing it at the right time. Without the right confluence of events, including the retirement of high-paid fire officials, taxpayer unrest and the courageous leadership of local officials, consolidation in those municipalities would never have had a leg to stand on.
“We will continue to look at how to encourage merging fire districts to provide efficient delivery of services to the taxpayers, but without the leadership on the local level and the support of taxpayers, it’s going to be difficult.
“At the same time, I think we ought to look at capping fire district spending, like we already do with municipal and school spending. There’s no reason why fire departments need to succumb to ‘firetruck envy,’ when the taxpayers are left footing the bill for an unnecessary piece of equipment.
“As we continue the process to examine how best to save taxpayer funds through consolidation and shared services, we ought to focus on fire districts. The resistance will be great, but in the end, effective administration of our fire districts can serve as an important part of stabilizing local property taxes.”