Editor’s Note: This article was updated with comment from State Sen. Vin Gopal. It was updated again with comment from Senate President Steve Sweeney.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced $10 million in grants for local governments Wednesday.
“The efforts announced here today enhance our Administration’s ability to guide and encourage our state’s diverse communities that are interested in pursuing consolidation and shared services,” Murphy said. “As we lead our state towards the stronger and fairer economy that we hope to build together, it is our Administration’s responsibility to provide these communities a platform from which to pursue efficient growth, achieve smart government, and provide relief to local taxpayers.”
Each of the state’s 21 counties will receive $150,000 — a total of more than $3 million — in Local Efficiency Achievement Program challenge grants. Those funds will go towards the creation of shared services programs.
Another $5.8 million is being put into implementation grants. Those grants will fund one-time expenses related to shared services agreements, including new equipment, training and rebranding.
Local governments that receive challenge grants may be eligible for implementation grants without submitting a second application.
“The grant program announced today is an important step,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, a longtime proponent of shared services agreements. “But we need to make sure we provide officials with the support they need to make the tough decisions, such as reviving my S-1 ‘carrot and stick’ legislation that requires towns to implement shared services that provide demonstrable savings.”
Some of the $5.8 million will be set aside to aid school district consolidation.
The state will provide each county with an additional $50,000 to hire a shared services coordinator fellow for one year.
“Shared services and administrative consolidation are two of the most powerful tools we have to fight back against rising property taxes,” State Sen. Vin Gopal said. “Unfortunately, when you try to implement these policies, you find out quickly that towns just don’t have the money to get it done – even if it’ll lead to long-term savings for taxpayers. These grants give towns the leverage they need to get over that bump in the road and make these cost-cutting reforms without hesitation.
The grants will be administered by the Division of Local Government Services within the Department of Community Affairs.
“Helping our communities achieve savings and growth through shared services is a primary directive of this Administration, and this department,” said Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “We must do everything we can to allow these communities to thrive without the burden of increased property taxes, and help our middle-class families and retirees enjoy the benefits of the stronger and fairer New Jersey our Administration has worked so hard to build.”