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Shared services Bill

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2011 9:19 am    Post subject: Shared services Bill Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

TRENTON — A bill designed to push towns toward sharing services barely made it out of a Senate committee today, after almost an hour of union representatives and the League of Municipalities testifying against various provisions of the measure.

Sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), the bill would charge a little-known committee — the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission — with recommending specific shared services and consolidation opportunities. If the commission identifies potential savings between two units, and the towns do not implement sharing agreements within 14 months, the towns lose out on state aid.

The provision of the proposal that came under fire at today's hearing would drop civil service regulations, often cited as a hindrance to sharing services, for towns entering into agreements.

"Civil service is not an impediment," said Adam Liebtag, president of Communication Workers of America Local 1036, which represents local government workers.

Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex), one of two "no" votes, said he supports civil service reform but feels the bill is "messing with civil service" and wants to study it further. The other no vote came from Christopher Connors (R-Ocean.)

Democratic Senators Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) and Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May), and Republican Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego (R-Burlington) voted yes, but all said they had serious reservations with the measure. It now heads to the Senate budget committee. Its counterpart in the Assembly is waiting for a hearing in committee.

Sweeney said civil service would be suspended while two units were merged, then put back in place for civil service towns.

"We can do government much more efficiently if we look at things differently," Sweeney said. "I hear people that don’t want to see change, but the only ways you’re going to share costs is by change."


Shared services is often pointed to by public officials as a cost-saving option for municipalities, and many towns already share aspects of local government, from courts to animal control, with neighboring towns and school boards.

But representatives from the state Fraternal Order of Police said they oppose sharing public safety units in any form.

"Shared services of public safety entities does not work," said Ronald Bakley, representing the state police union. He added if officers are laid off from their current forces to be rehired by a shared force, "it's devastating financially for their families."

Art Ondish, Mayor of Mount Arlington and an official with the League of Municipalities, said he supports making it easier to share services, but doesn't want to see towns forced to comply, or face state aid cuts.

"These are the things that your local elected officials really need to do on their own," he said.

Liebtag, of the CWA, added that the bill would permit the state to interfere in local government matters.

"It's stepping into local government decision making. It overrules local voters," Liebtag said. "It's one more excuse to cut state aid."

Sweeney dismissed that idea, saying his proposal actually gives more control to voters.

"It's not overriding voters, because voters are the ones that are going to vote for it," Sweeney said.
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