Lively, healthy communities depend on a strong slate of outdoor activities and cultural events. Now more than ever, it’s important to preserve and improve our local parks and recreation programs.
To accomplish this, we will have to do more with less. One avenue worth exploring is to share more services between county and local governments.
This process is already well under way. Over the past two years, the Freeholder Board has conducted five working sessions to develop new shared service agreements. The response has been enthusiastic. Several school districts and all twenty-one municipalities have attended at least one workshop.
As a direct result, we reached new agreements in several key areas, especially in computer-related services provided through county offices. The savings to municipalities has already reached hundreds of thousands of dollars. We expect this figure to keep growing substantially.
The amount of money saved is only part of the story. By sharing resources, we also cut duplication among different levels of government. This provides local governments with more leeway to allocate staff and facilities.
County-local sharing is not a new thing. For example, our shared purchasing contracts have helped municipalities cut administrative costs while getting access to higher quality vendors. Our K-9 unit and other public safety programs offer valuable services to municipal police departments. And, our award-winning county high schools provide vocational and academic opportunities of the first rank.
Now we’re taking this traditional approach into new territory. The topic of our most recent shared services workshop was parks and recreation, including cultural events. The approximately 30 attendees brainstormed on ways to combine and share facilities, to improve local access to county resources, and to develop more shared county-local arts programs.
It’s an effort that will pay off in many ways. And for our youth, early exposure to cultural events has been linked to lifelong engagement in the arts, which in turn leads to better chances for academic and career success.
By pulling our resources together in new and innovative ways, we can ensure that public recreation and cultural events remain a strong and vital part of our civic landscape, in each of our 21 municipalities and throughout Union County.