MADISON, NJ - A majority of voters in a state with 566 municipalities and widespread budget problems say sharing municipal services is a good idea. According to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, 71% say that in order to save money, sharing services like police, fire and school administration is a good idea, while 19% say it’s a bad idea. Three of four Republicans (76%) say it’s a good idea, and so do two of three Democrats (67%). But women are a bit more hesitant to modify New Jersey’s entrenched “home rule” tradition than are men.
Changing the question slightly to ask voters about their town in particular, the answer remains the same: 70% say it’s a good idea for their town to share services with a neighboring town.
“Given every town’s problems with tight budgets, high property taxes, and pension contributions, perhaps sharing services is an idea whose time has finally come,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “It used to be that shared services were a good idea for someone else’s town. Now voters are suggesting it’s a good idea for their town too,” he added.
Asked specifically about sharing their police services with a neighboring town, 64% of voters agree it’s a good idea, while 29% object. The survey reveals a gender divide on the issue. Among men, 71% say sharing cops is a good idea but only 58% of women agree.
Asked specifically about sharing school administration with a neighboring town, two-thirds (66%) say it’s a good idea, while 25% say it’s not. Again, men (71%) are more likely than women (61%) to say it’s a good idea.
Asked about sharing their fire services with another town, 66% say it’s a good idea, while 27% say it’s a bad idea. While 71% of men say it’s a good idea, 60% of women agree.
“Of course, the devil is in the details when trying to merge services,” said Woolley. “The service providers themselves are often the first ones to object to a change in how things are administered.”
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 711 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from March 29 through April 4, 2011, and has a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.