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Sep 17th
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Shared services interest grows as towns lose aid

By TOM HESTER
NEW JERSEY NEWSROOM

firefights_opt The ugly economy and a proposed $32 million cut in municipal aid in the Corzine administration's proposed 2009-10 budget are leading more towns to consider merging public services, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee learned Wednesday.

State Community Affairs Commissioner Joseph Doria spoke of the activity as he explained the DCA's proposed $1.1 billion budget set to go into effect on July 1, a figure down $41 million from the present fiscal package, and defended Gov. Jon Corzine's $29 billion so-called doomsday budget.

 

"I would state that the governor's proposed budget is historic in nature,'' Doria said. "It marks the first time in 60 years a governor has introduced a smaller budget in his fourth year then in his first. It also represent the single greatest reduction in state spending from one year to the next in New Jersey history'' He added, "For two consecutive years he has reduced spending, an unheard of measure in our state.''

 

The reduction of $32 million in state aid means every city and town will see either the support frozen at the amount it received in the 2008-09 budget or lose dollars. Only Egg Harbor would receive an increase, $1. The aid reduction follows a cut of $126 million for municipalities in the 2008-09 budget.

"The $32 million reduction was driven by the principle that municipalities with higher wealth and lower taxes can absorb more of an aid reduction that municipalities with low wealth and higher taxes,'' Doria said. He added, "Each municipalities 2010 allocation was reduced by a different percent, based on their designated wealth/tax burden. The highest tax/lowest wealth (towns) received a 0 percent reduction, while the highest wealth/lowest tax burden (towns) received a 5 percent reduction limited by capping the loss to the average residential tax payer at $100.''

With Republican gubernatorial and Assembly candidates in the November election preparing to blame higher property taxes on Corzine and the Democratic-controlled Legislature, Doria told the committee, "While municipal aid has decreased, it must be noted that property tax relief for New Jersey residents has increased enormously under Governor Corzine. Since the governor came into office, more than $7 billion will have been provided in property tax relief to New Jersey residents. This figure represents a 40 percent increase compared to the previous four years (2003-07) and it is more than double the amount provided under the Whitman/DiFrancesco administration.''

Doria said this year DCA has awarded $1 million in 26 grants to help towns implement shared services or consider the feasibility of doing so, and another 18 grants are being considered. In many cases, towns are combining their municipal courts.

Doria said, for example, that Chester Borough and Chester Township are considering consolidation as are Corbin City and Upper Township in Atlantic and Cape May counties, and the idea has been raised for a third time in Princeton Borough and Princton Township. He said Demarest, Haworth, Maywood, Sussex Borough and Wantage have formed shared services study committees.

 

 

 

 

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