The Citizens' Campaign today unveiled a menu of ten model local government cost-cutting proposals designed to help put the brakes on rising property taxes now under even greater pressure due to the state's growing budget crisis. Taken together, the proposals offer the potential for significant savings. Among the proposals are joining or forming a regional emergency dispatch service; eliminating benefits for part time elected officials and professionals; sharing computer administration between the municipality and school board and the performance of energy audits for government buildings and vehicles.
The proposals include a Salary Sunshine Online model law by which municipalities would place on their web site the top 5 salaries in each department, the overtime costs and all labor contract.
According to Campaign leaders, responsible government waste reduction is the next big challenge facing New Jersey. They point out that two-thirds of New Jersey taxpayer dollars are spent at the local level, where the fight against waste and inefficiency has just begun. The upcoming $9 billion state budget deficit will also mean that state funds for municipalities and school districts will drop drastically, raising the specter of skyrocketing property taxes and shrinking services.
The Citizens' Campaigns' Jersey Call to Service will recruit citizens to present the model cost-cutting proposal of their choice to their hometown governing body. The Citizens' Campaign used a similar strategy of residents winning the adoption of local pay-to-play reform laws to generate the momentum that resulted in New Jersey adopting the strongest state-level pay-to-play government contracting reforms in the country.
Citizens' Campaign Chair Harry Pozycki said, "New Jersey faces an immediate budget crisis at all levels of government and a long-term budget problem that we can not simply wish away. It is time for New Jersey citizens to step up to the plate and constructively advance the cost-efficiencies needed to stop property taxes from skyrocketing and to ensure that essential services can still be delivered.."
Pozycki added, "The goal of the effort is not only to win adoption of these critical cost-saving measures, but to build a culture of savings where citizens and elected officials focus on constructive ways to address the property tax crisis and put frugality front and center."
Model Cost-Cutting Proposals
The model proposals are briefly summarized below:
1) Becoming part of or forming a regional dispatching service thereby saving funds in the area of dispatcher services. Or if your municipality still uses police officers as dispatchers and there is strong resistance to using regional dispatching move to using civilians as dispatchers. Montgomery Township is saving between $600,000 and $750,000 annually from the full regionalization of their 4 dispatcher services: 1) police 2) fire 3) EMS 4) 911.
2) Eliminating benefits for part-time elected officials and professionals. In health insurance costs, this would be a savings of between $12,000 and $20,000 per person depending mainly on whether the benefits were individual or family. (If co-pays are required those numbers would be somewhat reduced.)
3) Sharing of computer administration (network administrator) between the municipality and the school board -- share the cost of the contract. Savings in the $60,000 to $70,000 range depending on the size of the municipality. Formation of an on-going committee to explore potential cost-savings by implementing other shared service arrangements between the municipality and the school board.
4) Perform Energy Audits of municipal, school board or county governments.
5) Sunshine On-Line to include budget summary, top 10% or salaries or top 5 salaries for each department whichever is greater, overtime per department and all labor contracts.
6) Merge Zoning Board and Planning Board for towns with less than 15,000 residents as permitted by the Municipal Land Use Law and condense redevelopment authority functions in the governing body and planning board.
7) Contract with County Road Department for municipal road repairs, saving significant costs associated with bidding and private contractor oversight.
8) Contract out Vehicle Maintenance. Montgomery estimates they are saving about $200,000 annually by contracting out to First Vehicle Maintenance—a company that specializes in servicing government fleets as opposed to having an arrangement with a local garage or doing it in-house.
9) Reducing the number of weekly trash pickup days after the summer months (Memorial Day-Labor Day). This initiative can save towns thousands of dollars, since it reduces the money spent in fees for waste removal and frees up workers for park maintenance with less overtime costs.
10) Form Mayor's Task Forces on: (1) Municipal Service Efficiencies and (2) Community Service Supports.
The menu was developed by the Citizens' Campaign Law and Policy Task Force, chaired by Governor Tom Kean's former Policy Chief Gary Stein, and comprised of top government lawyers and finance experts and is based in part on the successes some New Jersey municipalities are having in the area of cost-cutting. The Citizens' Campaign has launched a Platform for the People on its web site which list the models and offers instructions on how citizens can construct their own cost-cutting ideas.
This new government cost-cutting effort is part of the Citizens' Campaign's "Jersey Call to Service Campaign," a public service initiative to inspire 5,000 citizens to participate in the leadership of their communities and reverse the tide of government waste and corruption.