TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney which would create a pilot program in Gloucester County to merge municipal property tax assessors into a countywide office was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today by a vote of 14-0, with one abstention.
“Home rule has long been considered the third-rail in New Jersey politics, but if we’re ever going to get local property taxes under control, we need to find better ways to provide services with less cost to the local taxpayer,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “Gloucester County has a record as a Statewide leader in shared services, and all 24 municipalities in the county, on a bipartisan basis, have approved resolutions asking for the ability to merge tax assessment services. It’s time that we spend public dollars smarter, and put our limited public resources to the benefit of the public, not to perpetuate the bureaucracy.”
Senator Sweeney’s bill, S-2356, would eliminate municipal tax assessors’ offices and replace them with a more cost-efficient county office over a three-year period. Municipalities in the county would be required to have a property revaluation during this first three-year period to create a “level playing field;” however, municipalities that have implemented revaluation within the preceding 24 months would be exempt from this latest round of revaluation. Senator Sweeney noted that Gloucester County would bear the cost of administering the new system, saving municipalities the future expense. The Gloucester County pilot program would be studied by the “Local Unit Reorganization and Consolidation Commission” to determine the feasibility of exporting the program to other counties around the State.
Senator Sweeney added that Gloucester County makes an ideal candidate for such a pilot program for a number of reasons. In land area and population density, Gloucester County falls within the middle of New Jersey’s 21 counties, making it a good representation for other counties in the State. And the county has already begun experimenting with county-wide or regional services to save money in other areas, including emergency management, county school administration, stormwater management, arson and explosion investigations, the county SWAT team, and records management.
“In Gloucester County, we’ve seen the savings that can be achieved through shared services and reducing the size of local government,” said Senator Sweeney, who also serves as Freeholder Director for Gloucester County. “Whether it’s tax administration, stormwater management, or public safety services, New Jerseyans cannot afford 566 individual fiefdoms where services are administered in the most inefficient way possible. Now more than ever, we cannot continue with the status quo, and must look for more efficient ways to provide the services that our constituents count on from their government.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.