TRENTON – The Murphy administration Aug. 6 announced the award of 19 Local Efficiency Achievement Program (LEAP) grants to local governmental entities across New Jersey. These grants will help them pursue shared services as an option for driving down costs.
According to a release, the grant awards will support implementation of a variety of shared services initiatives, including equipment sharing, a community rating system, solid waste and recycling, public safety, fire district and jail consolidation, along with school consolidation studies, and advance early-stage projects related to economic development, medical examiners, health services, fire and emergency management, sewer infrastructure and animal control.
“With 565 municipalities, 600 local school districts and 21 counties in New Jersey, there is tremendous potential for shared services development that can assist local governments with achieving high-quality services at reduced taxpayer costs during these difficult financial times,” stated Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who serves as commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA). “The local governments awarded these grants will receive the funding and technical assistance they need to see their shared services projects through to completion.”
The LEAP program is comprised of three grant initiatives: Challenge, Implementation, and County Coordinator Fellowship. The Challenge grants promote innovation and collaboration on more expansive projects that produce shared services of notable significance. The Implementation grants help cover costs associated with the implementation of shared services and school feasibility studies, and the County Coordinator Fellowship grants support the hiring of a fellow to work full-time to identify and advance shared service opportunities within a county.
“We thank everyone who applied for the grants. We were impressed and encouraged by the robust applicant pool and the high caliber of the projects presented. The applications illustrated that local governments in all corners of the state are thinking creatively and strategically about ways to achieve smart government and provide relief for their taxpayers,” stated Melanie Walter, director of the Division of Local Government Services (DLGS). “We are excited to see what these local governments achieve with the help of the grants and we look forward to future rounds.”
Some examples of awarded grants include:
- Bergen, Hudson and Passaic counties received a $100,000 Challenge grant to conduct a feasibility study on sharing medical examiner services. The goal of the shared service is to improve preparation in determining health threats and conduct more timely autopsies, among other items, in an area of the state that accounts for close to 25% of New Jersey’s population.
- Dennis Township and the Dennis Township Board of Education in Cape May County received a $49,475 Challenge grant to purchase a portable battery-operated lift with a 75,000-pound capacity for working on large vehicles/equipment, including buses.
- Roosevelt School District in Monmouth County received a $108,525 Implementation grant to study regional district restructuring options to identify and potentially address budgetary issues while maintaining high-quality education standards.
- Chesterfield-Hamilton Fire District #1, District #2 and Union Fire Company received a $100,000 Implementation grant to purchase fire truck lettering, uniforms and equipment, advertising, and accounting and pay vehicle title transfer costs associated with the fire district consolidation. An increase in reliability, improved response times for service and estimated savings of $500,000 annually in personnel costs are anticipated through the consolidation.
- Monmouth County received a $125,000 Challenge grant to expand its Community Rating System (CRS) Assistance Program to provide communities of every size and capacity with the technical assistance needed to reduce time, cost and effort in managing CRS programs, which serve to improve flood mitigation and readiness. Also, the County Management Software Pilot Program enables participants to upload, store, maintain and access important CRS documentation and resources in one centralized remote location.
Other local governments that received LEAP grants include Atlantic County, Bridgeton, Cumberland County, Frenchtown, Gloucester County, Lambertville, Logan Township, Millville, Morris County Sheriff’s Office, North Wildwood, Ocean County, Paterson, Pinelands Regional School District, South Harrison Township, Sussex County Sheriff’s Office, Union County, Vineland, Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, and Woolwich Township.
To support local governments’ interest in shared services, DLGS established the Local Assistance Bureau (LAB), which provides technical assistance for each step of the shared services process from identification through implementation.
Also, Nicholas Platt and Jordan Glatt, who were appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy, in 2018, to serve as shared services czars, are available and ready to provide support and guidance to local governments considering the possibility of sharing services.
“Municipalities are under extraordinary pressure to find tax savings and the governor’s shared services program was established to help elected officials do just that,” stated Nicholas Platt, a former mayor and current township committeeman of Harding Township, Morris County. “The funding of these LEAP grants is an important way to get the word out on how other communities are driving down their operating cost.”
“As municipal budgets are being depleted by COVID-19, it is incumbent on municipalities to look for any and all savings,” stated Jordan Glatt, a former mayor of Summit, Union County. “Shared services do exactly that. We are thrilled to be able to provide support to help communities through this difficult time. “
Local governments interested in learning more about shared services can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dlgs/programs/lab.html.
The DCA offers a wide range of programs and services, including affordable housing production, fire safety, building safety, community planning and development, local government management and finance, and disaster recovery.
For more information about DCA, visit https://nj.gov/dca/ or follow the Department on social media.