Mid-Year Progress Report on Monmouth County Shared Service Initiatives
By Thomas A. Arnone
Monmouth County continues to grow in its leadership role in the field of shared services.
We have been successful in streamlining operations and centralized administration in an effort to reduce the burden on Monmouth County taxpayers.
To demonstrate our dedication to this effort, we created an office of shared services to centralize and standardize programs, increase efficiencies in administration and improve business processes. These efforts have played a strong role in eliminating redundancy and waste throughout the public sector allowing for the most beneficial and efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
We have successfully built new partnerships with 53 municipalities and several counties throughout the state resulting in one of the most far reaching and highly developed shared services programs in the nation culminating in more than 300 shared-services agreements, millions in estimated savings to taxpayers and over $10.1 million in new recurring revenue streams thus far.
We now are expanding our shared-services partnerships with many school boards as well. Monmouth County citizens can see three areas of savings and increased efficiencies – at the municipal, county and now school board level.
The office of shared services in Monmouth County continues to grow in a tradition of strong leadership and national recognition.
A groundbreaking new Monmouth County shared service which serves to streamline operations and reduce costs in the field of online property tax services has been recently recognized by one of the most prestigious institutions in the public sector – the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Centre for Democratic Governance and Innovation. They are pioneering our work to increase the efficiency of the property tax administration process. As further evidence of the effectiveness and growing importance of shared services nationally, I am pleased to report we have also been contacted by Cumberland County, Maine, and a southern province in Canada seeking to use our shared-services program as a model as they now explore the creation of advanced shared services initiatives of their own.
Additionally, we continue to see massive growth in our state-of-the-art MOD4 shared service. As one of the fastest growing areas of shared services, with almost 100 percent participation, we have 47 of 53 municipalities streamlining their assessment operations and saving on administration, time and paperwork costs. This shared service saves approximately 50 to 65 percent on the municipalities annual costs.
We are now exploring a pilot program to offer this shared service to other counties throughout New Jersey. This is an opportunity for other counties to duplicate and create their own system while they increase convenience, streamline their processes and save approximately $400,000 to $600,000 of taxpayer money. Asbury Park has saved more than 65 percent through this shared service. We also have had tremendous success with our online digital records management program.
Of course, I cannot discuss shared services in Monmouth County without mentioning our continued leadership in public safety communications shared services. We continue development of a state-of-the-art communications facility that will serve as a state and regional model.
Just as an example, Asbury Park officials have stated they will save more than $500,000 in the first year and over $300,000 in subsequent years. Freehold Township officials stated they will save over $430,000 per year by switching to the county dispatch shared-services program. Officials in smaller municipalities, like Spring Lake and Sea Girt, have stated they have saved between $100,000 to over $200,000 per year.
We are extremely proud of our leadership and the recognition of our successful shared-services initiatives in Monmouth County, and have no intention of resting on our laurels. In fact we are presently developing many new shared-services initiatives that we intend to offer to our municipal and county partners going forward to help further reduce the tax burden on New Jersey citizens.
Specifically, we have launched new technology initiatives to directly meet a timely demand after Super Storm Sandy wherein Monmouth County now offers digital data backup services for municipalities. We also help towns save on computer and software purchases through accessing existing county contracts. Other new initiatives in development include potentially offering our municipal and county partner’s safety-training courses, a continuously updated GIS system and also a state-of-the-art digital countywide emergency alert system.
Thomas A. Arnone is freeholder director of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Let the Voters Decide
By Michele S. Byers
We New Jerseyans are perpetually enthusiastic about preserving open space, farmland, parks and historic sites.
Thirteen consecutive times since 1961, citizens in this state we’re in have voted to fund the Garden State’s preservation programs. These programs have been hugely successful and have become a national model!
The most recent Green Acres referendum was in 2009, when voters endorsed a $400 million bond question. But that money has run out … every last dollar is either spent or allocated. Land preservation is about to slow to a crawl.
But New Jersey has not run out of land worthy of preservation – and that protects our drinking water supplies, grows our food and provides habitat for diverse wildlife are threatened. These are places of great scenic beauty, significant culture and history, and they provide valuable “ecoservices” like flood control and keeping our air clean.
In the current economic climate, it’s understandable that state officials are reluctant to take on new debt or add new taxes. But preserving critical natural lands and farmland now is a smart investment in New Jersey’s economic future and quality of life.
With that in mind, a proposal to use a small slice of the state’s sales tax revenue to fund land preservation is picking up bipartisan momentum in the state Legislature.
The New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee sent the proposal out of committee to the full Senate this week, and seven Assembly members signed as bill co-sponsors. A vote of the full Senate and Assembly is needed before the Legislature leaves for the summer on June 30.
If the bill is successful, a public question will go on the Nov. 5 ballot asking voters to dedicate 0.2 percent of state sales tax revenues – equal to a one-fifth of a penny of the current sales tax – to land preservation for the next 30 years.
Sales tax revenue has been growing steadily – by about $200 million a year for the last two fiscal years. Revenue growth is expected to continue, since New Jersey will also add revenues from Amazon.com sales starting in July, so the annual growth should cover the percentage to be dedicated to preservation programs.
The new funding won’t kick in until fiscal year 2015, giving the state plenty of transition time. The proposal does not call for an increase in the 7-cent sales tax. And should sales tax revenues drop in the future, funding for open space preservation would be reduced accordingly.
This sustainable source of land preservation funding is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed! New Jersey is the nation’s most densely populated state, and the first projected to reach full build-out – the point at which all land is preserved, developed or spoken for.
To protect our drinking water, food, wildlife, natural beauty and history, and ensure public safety, we need to keep preserving critical lands. It’s truly a matter of health and quality of life.
Add your voice to the call to let voters decide! Please contact the Senator and Assembly members in your district and urge them to vote for SCR138. To find your legislators’ contact information, visit www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp.
And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at email@example.com.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
Two River Moment
Hurry, hurry, hurry. Patrons at the Little Silver Fair line up to try their luck in a wheel of chance in this vintage photo from June 1953.