Sharing services is imperative to lowering the costs of our local government
New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has come into office with a new philosophy and a fresh approach on how to create efficient local government. One of the cornerstones of his plan to lower property taxes is for local taxing entities to share services.
I have embraced this strategy and have already started to implement it by creating partnerships with our fire district, other municipalities and state agencies. Duplicating services is one of the reasons New Jersey taxpayers face the highest property taxes in the nation, and I believe sharing services is imperative to lowering the costs of our local government.
The township has made great strides in agreements with other government entities, and my administration is committed to crafting comprehensive agreements that significantly save taxpayers’ money. We have taken three steps forward over the last three months that will be a realized savings while boosting services for the residents of Cherry Hill.
Shared Information Technology First, we are taking progressive steps to make the best information technology available to all branches of local government in the township. In an effort to find creative ways to share services and be fiscally responsible the township and the Fire District will consolidate their IT departments.
The township’s IT department will merge the services of the Fire District’s existing information technology department and link all seven fire buildings with each other and the township.
This consolidation of the IT departments will not warrant the hiring of new employees and will put three firemen back into action as emergency first responders. Previously, these firemen were working on information technology issues for the Fire District and stuck in the Fire Administration Building.
Another benefit to the township emergency services is the direct link to the new 911 cell phone system that is has been implemented in the Police Department. The enhanced 911 system will now allow the transfer of cell phone call locations directly into police and emergency vehicles instead having the dispatchers transfer the location over a radio transmission. Seconds are valuable in any emergency situation and our Fire Department and EMTs will have this new technology and be alerted directly of any 911 calls through this venture.
The interlocal agreement with the Fire District has been our most significant shared services contract to date, saving taxpayers the expense of new employees and outsourcing essential IT services. We have entered into other local agreements with surrounding municipalities as well as the state Motor Vehicle Commission.
Calming Domestic Violence The township saw an opportunity to work with a neighboring municipality and offer an essential service to the Borough of Haddonfield Police Department. The agreement stipulates the Haddonfield police department will use an established domestic violence counseling program that the Cherry Hill Police Department offers.
My administration is constantly looking for creative ways to work with neighboring communities and other government agencies to conserve resources and work more efficiently. Through this agreement there are no losers and the township Police Department is able to provide a high level of critical service that a smaller police department would not be able to afford.
Helping the State Prevent Identity Theft Another agreement we signed into effect was on a state level.
The Motor Vehicle Commission has always stressed the need for a safe working environment. From that perspective the township signed an agreement to pay a township police officer to watch over the facility. The state agreed to pay the rotation of Cherry Hill officers and did not have to staff the township MVC with a state trooper.
The new contract with the local MVC will add a critical service to the operation of an important state agency in the township. The current staffing by the police department has dramatically lowered arrest rates at the MVC offices statewide. Stopping and preventing identity theft and other kinds of document forgery was a primary reason to sign this agreement.
These agreements are essential to creating fiscal responsibility in local government, and designed so that municipalities do not have to replicate services. It is imperative that we continue to look for other shared service agreements with the surrounding governing agencies and push to save taxpayers’ money.
In the past, including this year, the state has only made $15 million available annually to persuade local governments to transform their philosophy about sharing services. The Governor’s Administration has made it very clear that municipalities trying to operate efficiently with other government agencies will be rewarded and compensated for transition costs.
The state wants to promote shared services and the Governor has made it one of his core areas of reform for lowering property taxes. I support this reform and Governor Corzine’s pledge to allocate $250 million in state grant money to encourage local and county governing bodies to share services.
I support this new agenda in local government and want to continue to walk the fiscally responsible steps to lower the state’s property taxes. In the modern era, local governments should be exploring all facets of cost cutting and shared services for the benefit of our taxpayers.