OCEAN TOWNSHIP – Senator Vin Gopal joined with Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey to applaud the release of $10 million in funding for shared services and school district consolidation in New Jersey following years of advocacy in the Legislature in support of both policies.
“Shared services and administrative consolidation are two of the most powerful tools we have to fight back against rising property taxes,” said Senator Gopal (D-Long Branch), who joined Governor Murphy for an announcement of this funding at Monmouth University this Wednesday. “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. Over the past two years, we’ve worked hard to make these measures top priorities for the Governor and legislative leadership, and I’m glad to see those efforts pay off.”
The $10 million will be made available to qualifying towns through “Shared Services and School District Consolidation Study and Implementation Grants,” and will be used to create a new program titled the Local Efficiency Program (LEAP). Under LEAP, towns can apply for reimbursements to cover the costs of implementing or transitioning to shared services. Additional “Challenge Grants” will award $150,000 divided between up to three qualifying governing bodies within each county, with a goal of spurring competition and encouraging towns, counties, and municipal authorities to develop the best plan possible for their residents.
“Shared services agreements can’t come from a top-down approach, where the state tells individual towns what to do, where to merge, and when to cut,” Gopal added. “With these grants, we can really harness the independent creativity of each town in New Jersey, and use that competition to make sure that this $10 million creates the most possible taxpayer savings for every dollar spent.”
Of the $10 million, $3.15 million will be dedicated to Challenge Grants, $1.05 million will be made available to counties to identify shared services opportunities, and $5.8 million will be made available for general implementation grants. Of the $5.8 million for implementation grants, $2 million will be set aside to partially support studies of district and county-wide school administration consolidation.
“Our schools’ number-one priority is educating our students – but that doesn’t leave many resources for finding more efficient ways of doing so,” Gopal said. “Right now, New Jersey’s cluttered mess of 600 overlapping, competing school districts wastes vital dollars that could be going toward our children’s education. This money will go a long way toward helping districts develop actionable plans for consolidation, potentially allowing for millions of dollars in taxpayer savings.”
“We’re glad to announce this funding for Monmouth County towns and schools, and excited to see what kind of savings these grants make possible,” said Assemblyman Houghtaling (D-Neptune). “Bloated administrative costs have made property taxes less and less affordable for our residents, but with a strong shared services program, we can help towns cut down on expensive programs and create real savings for our residents.”
“New Jerseyans deserve a more efficient government – a government that doesn’t waste a dime of their taxes and ensures that every dollar spent has a bigger return for our taxpayers,” said Assemblywoman Downey (D-Freehold). “These grants are the next step on the path toward making our schools and municipalities more efficient, and we’re grateful to everyone who joined us in the fight for consolidating costs.”