Brigantine Slow to Embrace County-Wide Shared Services

Letter to the editor.

Shouldn’t providing a public service effectively at the least cost be a priority for municipal governments? Shouldn’t opportunities for public discussion in person on an important issue with the involved parties be welcomed and used? We think so.

New Jersey is among the States with the highest property taxes. What can be done to reduce them while at the same time providing significant benefits to taxpayers in terms of expansion and uniformity of services, the fairness and quality of those services and at a lower cost? How about consolidation of a government service, sharing and improving instead of costly and unnecessary duplication?

Such a consolidation, a Countywide voluntary municipal court system, has been proposed by Atlantic County. It has generated lots of interest and a willingness to participate.  New Jersey has a Home Rule tradition. 

For example, it has 565 municipalities and a reluctance to give up local control with accompanying local jobs. Past County proposed consolidations have failed (County dispatch service, Countywide property assessments), but now there appears to be a greater awareness of the common-sense benefits of consolidation.

As of now, eight, the number required for viability, County municipalities have signed up.  It’s not just this number that’s important. It’s the fact that the three largest towns in size and population – Galloway, Egg Harbor and Hamilton Townships have joined. 

As more municipalities join, the greater the savings for each one.

Based on the data submitted to the County, Brigantine would save in excess of $100,000. The County expects to have the system up and running by the beginning of 2022.

The preliminary studies of this proposal reveal that all Atlantic County municipalities, including Brigantine, operate their municipal courts at a loss.

It is noteworthy to mention that those who work in New Jersey’s judicial system, judges, etc., have advocated such a consolidation for years. Now, New Jersey’s Legislature has passed a bill to make this possible.

Where does Brigantine stand?  Initially, City Council passed a Resolution to join in a study about such a system.  Good!  Now, as evident at the last City Council meeting, Brigantine appears to be balking.

Speaking for the three -member Court committee appointed in July, the Mayor listed all the issues still “unanswered and explained” by the County that are keeping Brigantine from joining. Instead of complaining, accept the County’s offer, made to all frequently, to come in person to a Council meeting and answer its questions. 

Advertise the meeting, invite the public to come and participate.  I asked City Council to do just that. The Mayor ignored this recommendation and refused to make such a commitment.  WHY?

The County Executive is quoted as saying (7/15/21 Press), “It appears many towns are more interested in maintaining status quo than attaining significant savings.” (Partisanship isn’t an issue.  Both parties are supporting this program.)

Transparency is paramount here.  By refusing to take such an obvious step inviting the County to present its case in person to the Council and the public and answer all questions, Brigantine misses an opportunity to be transparent and present a convincing position in opposition to this program.

As always, the question is, “who does government work for?”

Sincerely, Anne H. Phillips, Brigantine Taxpayers Association. 8/11/2021

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