Revitalized program will help towns, schools lower taxes 

FREEHOLD, NJ – The Board of Chosen Freeholders has amended the administrative code to create the Monmouth County Office of Shared Services and realign some other staff positions.

“The shared services initiatives spearheaded in Monmouth County have been extremely successful, allowing us to achieve, and even surpass, the core objectives of providing key services and providing very significant cost savings to our communities,” said Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone, liaison to the new Shared Services office. “With the announcement of this new initiative, Shared Services will continue to reach new levels, create greater cost savings and offer new revenue opportunities.”

The freeholders also separated the Division of Economic and Workforce Development into two, separate divisions, which will help focus the county’s efforts on creating economic opportunities for businesses as well as those who are looking for employment.

None of the changes expand the size of county government; existing personnel will be reassigned. Stephen G. Callas, the county’s shared services coordinator, is now director of that office.

“There are opportunities for municipalities to save millions of taxpayer dollars through their participation in shared services provided by the county,” Callas said. “I am ready and willing to meet with all local partners, school boards included, to talk about the many ways in which we can spend less taxpayer money without impacting the quality of services.”

Current shared services and future areas to be explored include 911 dispatch, Information Technology Services, Planning Board assistance, Public Works commodity resale, Public Works municipal project assistance, cooperative purchasing, truck wash facilities, and Records Information Management (RIM) Program, which allows local government entities to scan records into the county master database.

“Our new shared services program has been revitalized with a streamlined offering of what has been determined to be the most cost efficient and most beneficial programs,” Arnone said. “It will continue to deliver the greatest savings to the municipality and local taxpayers, while also increasing revenues at the county level to offset inherent costs of administering the program.”

The shared services initiatives spearheaded by Monmouth County government have been extremely successful; all 53 municipalities share some type of service with the county. Police departments, fire departments, first aid squads, authorities, commissions and public schools and institutions of higher learning are all sharing services to positively impact their budgets and deliver services to residents.

It is estimated that the county has saved municipalities and school boards millions of dollars through successful sharing of 911 dispatch, public works assistance, cooperative purchasing, information technology and digital records management, Arnone said.

For example, one municipality publicly reported an estimated savings of more than $600,000 per year by participating in the county shared services dispatch program conducted through the Sheriff’s Office.

Neptune Township recently joined the county shared services dispatch program, which will save taxpayers there $1 million over the life of the agreement and generate $1.8 million in revenue for the county over the same period, helping to offset expenses and hold the line on taxes.

Initial response to a web-based survey has been overwhelmingly in favor of increasing shared services and expanding the county outreach program. One hundred percent of respondents said they would consider increasing their use of shared services if the county provided the service at a cost that is less than they currently pay, allowing them to deliver quality services to their constituents at a reduced cost.

A large majority indicated a “user fee” was the most attractive way for their organization to pay for shared services, solidifying the county model of covering costs, providing quality services and generating revenues.

Monmouth County shared services will continue to offer top-quality services to its local partners,” Arnone said. “Due to economies of scale, the county’s fee-based business model often will provide these services for less than what it would cost a town or school district to do the work themselves, or what it would cost an outside provider to do it, therefore saving taxpayers money.”

In addition, the county will be able to offset its costs by pursuing increased revenue opportunities through the newly developing fee-based system, Arnone said.

The 2 percent budget cap imposed by the state and rising institutional costs such as health care and pensions will continue to make each budget cycle a challenge, Arnone said.

“In today’s economic climate, shared services have ceased to be an option and have indeed become a necessity if governments are to deliver top quality services to constituents at more affordable costs,” Arnone said. “We must continue to expand shared services in order to reduce the heavy tax burden and preserve the high quality of life we all have come to enjoy in Monmouth County.”

“We will be putting together meetings to strengthen our existing shared service partnerships,” Callas said. “We welcome the opportunity to provide more information about expanding sharing services, commodity purchases and more in the coming months.”

Contact the Office of Shared Services by calling 732-683-8501, ext. 6724. To learn more about the county’s shared services program, log onto www.visitmonmouth.com