Monmouth County: The ‘model of shared services’ in NJ?
As state legislative leaders push an ultimatum for municipalities to share services, Monmouth County is attempting to expand and enhance its program that's gathered nearly 200 shared services agreements with communities since 2011.
"Monmouth County is the model of shared services in the state of New Jersey," said Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone, who recently led a shared services summit to inform municipalities and other entities of the cost-saving options available.
Run like a business, Arnone said, Monmouth County's Office of Shared Services works with clients — school boards, fire districts and authorities, for example, in the county's case — to find them more affordable ways to keep up with operations.
The county's 9-1-1 Communications Center, one of the largest in the state, provides services to 49 municipalities, and dispatches for 23 police departments, 70 fire districts and 37 EMS/rescue squads.
Beyond routine shared services agreements, the county has also assisted towns with savings for paving roads, cleaning sewers, records management and dredging.
With each agreement, taxpayers save money and the county adds to its revenue base, also assisting taxpayers, Arnone said.
"In my eyes it was a double savings," Arnone said. "I think that's why the county's been able to keep their budget pretty flat over the last seven or eight years."
Arnone said the nearly 200 agreements in place — which include towns with multiple deals — represent just a drop in the bucket of what can be accomplished. With the recent summit, he expects the number of agreements to grow significantly over the next few weeks.
For the fifth straight legislative session, state Senate President Steve Sweeney has a bill in place that would withhold funds from towns and school systems that refuse to share services.