Mayor: Sharing services may not mean job losses

By Linda Seida, Staff Writer
   Logic says if two towns decide to share services, somebody could lose a job.
   After all, if they could share the salary of one employee to get similar jobs done, why pay for two?
   That would defeat the purpose of sharing services, to save money and become “more efficient,” as politicians in these scary financial times are fond of saying.
   For example, Lambertville and West Amwell have been looking at sharing services in several categories, including municipal court and public works personnel, a tax collector and a tax assessor.
   The towns also are looking into combining their police departments into a single south county force, along with East Amwell Township.
   The changes are only under discussion at this point, and no changes have been enacted. Yet, employees in West Amwell are concerned over possible cutbacks. They met recently with Mayor William Corboy to discuss those concerns.
   ”Anytime there are changes or the potential for change, people do become unnerved,” Mayor Corboy said. “You hate to say people should be concerned about their jobs.”
   Unlike West Amwell’s police officers, other township employees do not have a contract, according to the mayor.
   The police contract runs through 2010.
   Even if the two communities decide to share a police force, Mayor Corboy said he does not envision the loss of jobs. To the contrary, he expects the move would provide more opportunities for advancement than currently exist.
   ”I don’t see why any of them would worry about a layoff,” the mayor said. “I can’t imagine the combined police force would have fewer members than we have now.”
   In the case of other township employees, Mayor Corboy said it would have to be shown that sharing a position with another town would be more than cost effective; it would have to be shown to be in the township’s best interests.
   Right now, he does not see cutting jobs as the most efficient way to get the jobs done.
   ”You’re really squeezing pennies to show savings or improvement,” he said. “It would be impossible to show better quality service. Right now, it hasn’t been demonstrated to me there is great savings to be garnered by removing people.”
   But with pressure mounting from Trenton over the past several months, communities like West Amwell are looking into the possibilities.
   ”The whole incentive came from Trenton when the governor decided to reduce aid to municipalities with less than 10,000 people,” Mayor Corboy said. “So we owe it to ourselves to take a look. But I enter into it with the idea we’re going to substantiate we’re doing a good job. People are doing everything they can to do quality work on minimum hours. I’m pretty much assured they are.”
   West Amwell initially anticipated losing about $1.2 million in state aid under the governor’s proposed budget cuts. Last month, however, the state restored about $950,000. And the township also is hoping for even more with an application for extraordinary aid.
   ”I’m very happy with the fact almost 85 percent of our money is being restored,” Mayor Corboy said. “West Amwell has done extremely well. It doesn’t make us whole, but it certainly takes the wrinkles out.”