We last wrote about this in 1994.

Creating a regional system that puts county governments in charge of tax assessment and tax collection for all the municipalities in a given county seemed like a good idea then.

And it still seems like a good idea.

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But since then, the idea has progressed no further than a pilot program created by the Legislature in Gloucester County, which will be submitting a report to lawmakers soon.

Last week, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson picked up the issue again. He sent a letter to the Atlantic County Mayors Association, urging it to create a committee to study the idea.

Levinson's arguments appear to make sense.

Currently, there are 19 tax assessors and 20 tax collectors in the county. The towns are assessed at varying percentages of 100 percent equalized value, depending on when they did their last reassessment. And Levinson contends that centralizing the process in the county government would be cheaper and fairer. All 23 Atlantic County municipalities would save money, he says.

Critics - which not surprisingly include the Association of Municipal Assessors of New Jersey - question whether there will be any actual savings. Municipal costs will go down; county costs will increase, the group notes.

The AMANJ says more study is needed - which we don't dispute. So Levinson's idea of forming an Atlantic County committee to look at the options is a sound idea.

Levinson made his concerns clear in his letter to the mayors association: Atlantic County has lost $16 billion of valuation since 2008, more than half of it as result of successful tax appeals by Atlantic City casinos.

When casinos win tax appeals that cut their assessments by hundreds of millions of dollars each, taxpayers throughout the county - and the county budget - are affected. You can't blame a county executive for wanting more control over the process.

And you would think that municipal elected officials would be glad to be relieved of the controversial process of assessing properties for tax purposes.

New Jersey has 565 municipalities. That's a whole lot of tax assessors and tax collectors. Consolidating the process and putting the state's 21 counties in charge would certainly seem to be more efficient.

By all means, New Jersey needs to answer this question once and for all. And if the presumed savings are determined to be real, let's do it.

"Let the hearings begin," we said in our 1994 editorial on this topic. You'd think New Jersey would have answered this question by now.

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