Atlantic County’s proposal to provide taxpayers with hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual savings through a shared services, countywide municipal court system is meeting resistance.
“It appears many towns are more interested in maintaining status quo than attaining significant savings,” stated County Executive Dennis Levinson.
“Towns can come to us if they’re truly interested. There’s nothing more we can do.”
“Despite our full transparency in providing the cost savings, months of public presentations and discussions with municipal officials, explaining the proposal on multiple radio broadcasts and making ourselves accessible to answer any and all questions, there are still some who balk.
Levinson to Municipalities: Ball is in your court for taxpayer savings through consolidation.
Levinson confirmed that only six of Atlantic County’s 23 towns have made the commitment.
Egg Harbor Township, Galloway Township, Linwood, Weymouth Township, Estell Manor and Ventnor.
Ventnor would save $225,000, to cite an example.
“This proposal is based on economies of scale so the more towns that participate, the greater the savings,” he said.
This is a voluntary program. The county cannot force towns to participate. “We are looking to provide savings to the residents of the highest taxed state in the country.”
The county obtained current court costs from the towns, some willingly and others not. A few towns had to receive an Open Public Records Act request before responding and some still never responded.
Elected officials say they want to reduce costs and duplication but when push comes to shove, that’s not always true.County Exec Levinson
Atlantic City was the first to reply, last October, stating it was not interested before it ever saw a cost comparison or heard details of the plan.
“It’s interesting and very telling that the State of New Jersey, which has complete control of Atlantic City, inexplicably was the first to decline,” noted Levinson.
Another municipality, the Town of Hammonton, participated in initial discussions but later dropped off and is now soliciting towns to join them in a separate court!
A countywide municipal court system does not yet exist in New Jersey. Senate President Steve Sweeney has been extremely cooperative by introducing legislation to make this possible.
“We want to have the new court system up and running by January 2022. The longer these towns drag their feet the more difficult that timeline becomes,” he said.
“The consolidated court proposal has extraordinary merit. We’ve addressed all the concerns, including travel and police overtime, but it never seems to be enough,” said Levinson. “The ball is now in their court.”