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Resident: Rejection of Shared Court Service Was Failure

She calls the move "alarming."

To the Editor:

At their Nov. 29 meeting, the all-Republican Bridgewater council took an alarming stance against saving Bridgewater taxpayers' dollars through a sensible shared services agreement with Somerville. The majority vote essentially undid efforts to create a shared municipal court system which would have netted a total tax savings if $73,000—with specifically $47,000 for Bridgewater. 

The proposal followed the state's model for sharing courts, with each retaining its separate identity, but sharing personnel, space and records storage.  Bridgewater would continue to conduct court in the same manner—with no slowdown in service to residents. 

Although the savings may seem minimal in comparison to our approximate $38.5 million budget, striking down this measure shows a failure of commitment by our elected officials to work towards common sense reductions in our municipal budget. With a shrinking economy and tighter budgets at all levels of government, public officials have been scrambling the last few years to find areas to help alleviate the tax burden on residents. 

Our council was fortunate enough to identify an opportunity to save money, however, they failed to accept this common sense initiative. 

Failure to accept such practical shared services is what has recently caused our State Senate to pass a bipartisan bill to penalize towns that refuse to share municipal services with their neighbors.  In introducing this legislation, Senate President Sweeney summed it up best, "If governments don't wish to run their towns more cost-effectively, there is no reason the taxpayers of New Jersey should have to foot the bill." 

I simply ask, why should the taxpayers of Bridgewater have to pay for the failure of the council to manage our town as efficiently as possible? 

Sincerely,

Regina Wellman

Bridgewater

Nicholas Clark December 11, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Ms. Wellman, a couple of things I think you overlooked. My understanding of the amount that the Mayor proposed saving was more in line with $36,000, which equals 0.18% of the budget, or $1.80 per household. However, this number didn't include other hidden costs, and there was substantial liability risks to the town. I think Bridgewater was taking over Somerville's employees directly, so if any of those individuals became sick, Bridgewater pays the costs. One moderate illness or injury and all of the sudden Bridgewater is paying much more than it ever could gain. There were so many other issues that I read the Council was trying to work with the Mayor to protect Bridgewater, but the Mayor didn't seem to want to cooperate. That's the gist that I got at least from all my reading and research into this matter. And let's keep in mind, that it was the 3 councilmen who have always stood for the principles of fiscal conservatism that struck this deal-as-written down. These same 3 councilmen voted NO to Mayor Hayes 2012 budget 6.5% -- $1.7 million -- proposed tax increase. I just read a letter to the editor the councilmen submitted to the Courier where they say that they remain willing to work with the Mayor to do a deal that is financially sound and provides safeguards to Bridgewater. That's what we should all want. I'm glad the Councilmen are looking out for us here in Bridgewater.

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