By: Ana Altchek, Follow South Jersey Contributing Writer
SOUTH JERSEY – The Murphy Administration and the NJ Department of Community Affairs’ (DCA) recently announced grants totaling $2.47 million towards the Local Efficiency Achievement Program (LEAP).
The total sum comes from 20 LEAP grants to help governmental entities across New Jersey. Designed to promote and encourage the sharing of services, the awards will help local governments pursue shared services initiatives to reduce taxpayer costs and enhance services.
In the South Jersey region, Atlantic and Cumberland County each received a $50,000 County Coordinator Fellowship Grant. This will go towards hiring a fellow to work full-time with the county to help identify and advance potential shared service opportunities.
The grants will also work to support the County Coordinator Fellowship program currently underway in several New Jersey counties while encouraging the design and implementation of a variety of shared services activities, including public safety, emergency dispatch, sanitation, public works, transportation, and school feasibility studies.
The Division of Local Government Services (DLGS) established the Local Assistance Bureau (LAB) to provide technical assistance for each step of the shared services process. The team is made up of municipal workers with expertise in the areas to bring an inventive and professional outlook to the field of municipal shared services.
Governor Murphy also appointed Nicolas Platt and Jordan Glatt to serve as Shared Service Czars in 2018, to provide guidance and support to local governments considering entrance into a shared service agreement. They say that the partnership with DLGS has allowed them to make significant progress in helping communities see the value and benefits of shared service agreements.
“We are very pleased that local leaders are utilizing LEAP grants to examine ways to benefit their constituents, and we stand ready to assist them in this meaningful work,” Platt and Glatt said. “We appreciate having the LEAP program as a trusted tool we can use as we continue our work.”
The LEAP can also receive two other types of grants. Challenge Grants promote innovation and collaboration on more expansive projects that produce shared services of notable significance. Additionally, Implementation Grants assist in covering costs associated with shared services and school feasibility studies.
Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner, Sheila Oliver, says that the LEAP grants demonstrate the continued commitment Governor Murphy and her have made to advancing shared services among local governments in New Jersey.
DCA offers a wide range of programs and services, including energy assistance, housing vouchers, affordable housing production, fire and building safety, community planning and development, local government management and finance, and disaster recovery and mitigation.
“Shared services can and do work,” Oliver says. “We look forward to seeing the progress local governments make with these grants and hope more communities take advantage of these grants in future funding rounds.”
The DLGS Director, Jacquelyn Suarez, says that the grant program advances their mission by giving local governments financial assistance in both studying and implementing shared services opportunities that reduce property taxes and solidify the services that people rely on.
“Helping local governments succeed is at the heart of the Division of Local Government Services’ mission,” Suarez says. “LEAP is a worthwhile endeavor that our Division is proud to administer year in and year out.”
For more information about DCA, visit https://nj.gov/dca/ or follow the Department on social media.
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