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 today by a vote of 25-7, with final legislative approval expected from the Assembly later today.
“Particularly as New Jersey residents are struggling with the effects of a national recession, we have a responsibility in government to achieve whatever savings we can for the hard-hit taxpayers we represent,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “This bill would allow the residents of Gloucester County to receive the services they depend on for a fraction of the cost, and would make Gloucester a model for shared services for the rest of the State. It’s time that we demand the efficient delivery of services from all levels of government, and make sure tax dollars are being used for the public good – not to perpetuate needless bureaucracy.”
The bill, S-2356, which is also sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Oroho, R-Sussex, Hunterdon and Morris, 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.
“Gloucester County has been at the forefront of shared services, and through our efforts, we’ve helped hold down property taxes for county residents,” said Senator Sweeney, who also serves as Freeholder Director for Gloucester County. “While there are those who insist on clinging to the antiquated system of home rule, we’re finding better ways to meet the needs of our constituents without damaging local identity or community spirit. Hopefully, the rest of New Jersey will take notice, and follow our example to rein in out-of-control property taxes.”
If the bill is approved in the Assembly, it would then go to the Governor to be signed into law.