May 2019 marked the one-year anniversary of our appointment as shared services czars for the state of New Jersey.
It has been a busy year of crisscrossing the state, speaking at events, meeting with hundreds of elected officials, and working with the governor’s office, the Legislature and state agencies.
One theme that keeps coming up is that residents have reached their saturation point when it comes to the property tax burden. Residents don’t want business as usual. They are demanding their elected officials pursue the most cost-effective way to deliver essential services in their towns.
In our first year we established two goals. The first was to develop a pipeline of new projects that, when executed, will demonstrate the cost savings and service enhancements that can be achieved with shared services.
Our second goal was to establish informational resources for towns to turn to if they are interested in shared services but unsure of what to do next. We work closely with the state’s Department of Community Affairs to do just that. Their Division of Local Government Services will — at no cost to a municipality — conduct feasibility studies, review labor agreements, propose organizational options, and present them to governing bodies interested in sharing services.
As former mayors, we both understand taking on this kind of change can be intimidating. It takes courage and political will to make it happen. But we are committed to supporting communities through their transition to a new way of providing services. We promote processes that involve listening to all parties by making sure the end result is a better deal for taxpayers while protecting existing employees.
We encourage towns to turn crisis into opportunity by using shared services to solve staff shortages and meet new or changing service demands. Inflection points may include impending staffing changes, the need for new facilities or an expensive new service requirement. For example, five towns in Morris County joined together to form a regional court when new mandates regarding security in the courts were too costly for the towns to meet individually. Along the shore, towns are seeking to replace facilities wiped out by Superstorm Sandy with shared facilities used by shared staff.
In the coming months, we will look in more detail at potential opportunities to promote cost-savings, especially studying whether counties can provide services, such as 911 dispatch, more efficiently than the individual municipalities within their borders.
In September, we will conduct our second symposium on shared services for municipalities with Gov. Phil Murphy.
Finally, we are delighted the governor and the Legislature have funded this bipartisan endeavor in the FY20 budget. This will be money well spent.
Elected officials and administrators interested in hearing more or who have a specific project to discuss are encouraged to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nj.gov/dca/services/sharedservices.html for more information. Our individual emails are email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicholas Platt, of Harding Township, Morris County, and Jordan Glatt, of Summit, Union County, are shared services czars for New Jersey.