TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Bob Smith which would establish a municipal consolidation commission to recommend mergers and shared services in order to cut the cost of government in New Jersey was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 35 -2.
“In New Jersey, we have more government than we can afford, and tiny fiefdoms serving minimal people only drive up our property taxes higher and higher,” said Senator Smith, D-Middlesex and Somerset, the co-chair of a panel to review regionalization and shared services during the Legislature’s Special Session. “We need a panel of planning experts, who will be able to light the path towards cost savings from shared services and municipal consolidation. This bill will ensure that New Jersey adapts to the changing needs of our people, and operates at the highest level of efficiency.”
The bill, S-12, would establish the “Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission,” to identify municipalities in the State which are ripe for mergers or shared service agreements, based on a set of predetermined efficiency benchmarks. Under the bill, the Commission – which would include representation from each region of the State: North, Central and South – would recommend municipalities to regionalize, either in whole or in part, with service sharing to increase government efficiency for the taxpayers. The Legislature would have 30 days to object to any recommendations from the Commission, at which point the regionalization proposal would be put to the voters in each municipality as a ballot question. Consolidation would require voter approval in each affected municipality.
“The municipal merger commission is really one of the centerpieces of our work with the Consolidation Committee, and is a testament to bipartisan cooperation to benefit the taxpayers of New Jersey,” said Senator Smith, who noted that the concept was originally proposed by Senator Joe Kyrillos, R-Monmouth and Middlesex. “The commission will allow experts and academics a chance to tackle our State’s unique ‘municipal madness,’ and make recommendations to promote greater efficiency. At the same time, the ultimate say will come from the voters who will have to live with the repercussions or benefits of regionalization.”
“Going into the future, I hope that we will be able to provide expanded incentives to further promote municipal consolidation in the State budget process,” Senator Smith added.
The bill, which received preliminary approval in the Assembly, has to go back for concurrence with Senate amendments to the bill.