BY TRISH GRABER - February 27, 2012
TRENTON â€“ Legislation sponsored by Senator Donald Norcross (D-Camden/Gloucester) that would remove barriers to local shared services by ensuring that municipalities are able to streamline positions, including certain positions held by employees with tenure, in order to carry out a shared services agreement meant to lower costs was approved unanimously today by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
Called the â€śCommon Sense Shared Services Act,â€ť the bill (S-533) would revise current law to provide that a municipal clerk, chief financial officer, assessor, tax collector, public works manager, or municipal treasurer that has tenure may be removed to effectuate a shared service agreement. The bill stems from a situation in Audubon, Camden County, in which the municipality formed a shared services agreement with the neighboring borough of Magnolia and removed its municipal clerk as part of the process. The official sued the town to get her job back and won. As a result, Audubon was required to rehire the clerk.
â€śTowns and cities that have identified cost savings through shared services must be given the tools to carry out those agreements in the best interest of their residents,â€ť said Senator Norcross. â€śRequiring a municipality to continue to employ certain workers solely because they have tenure is counterproductive. This measure will remove barriers to shared services faced by towns such as Audubon and allow them to take the action that is necessary to save taxpayers money.â€ť
â€śThis bill is important for municipalities that are trying in earnest to find cost-saving measures to control property taxes,â€ť said Audubon Mayor John Ward. â€śI want to thank Senator Norcross for sponsoring this legislation and for recognizing the work we are doing in Audubon to conduct business more efficiently. This will go a long way toward providing municipalities more flexibility at the local level and increased opportunities for shared services.â€ť
Shared service contracts described in the bill must be performed for a minimum of one year. Any tenured employee affected by the provisions of the bill would have an opportunity to be re-hired and regain tenured status if the agreement expires or is cancelled within two years following the employeeâ€™s dismissal.
The committee approved the bill by a vote of 5-0.