With revenues down and residents weary of ever-increasing local taxes, some states have made a push to privatize services in recent years to save money. Everything from roads to lotteries have been outsourced to help balance the budget of struggling towns.
But in New Jersey, a small town could become the first municipality in the state to privatize 911 police dispatching services.
According to the Star-Ledger, the idea of privatizing the town's dispatching team was floated last fall as a way for Lawerence, a town of 33,000 in central New Jersey to plug a budget gap of over $500,000.
“We’ve painted ourselves into a corner to provide services that cost less money," township manager Richard Krawczun said back in November.
Privatizing police dispatching services would eliminate nine positions, seven of which are currently filled. This comes on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, where emergency dispatchers worked tirelessly during the storm to help residents.
“I left my family, my safe home,” dispatcher Sue Handelman said during a town council meeting. “I tried to make sure that the township people were safe and if they had any problems, we were there to help out. Just keep that in mind.”
The sole bid to take over the town's dispatching services came from iXP Corp. Larry Consalvos, iXP’s president and chief operating officer, told the Star-Ledger they would hire as many of the town's six current dispatchers as possible, as close to their current salaries as iXP could afford.
Lawrence wouldn't be the first 911 service iXP has taken over from a town. It currently manages the 911 dispatch center in Sandy Springs, Georgia, a town that has outsources just about everything to private companies.
New Jersey residents may among the highest property taxes in the country, and towns throughout the state have been pressured to merge services in an attmpt to lower costs they can no longer afford.
According to Krawczun, Lawrence would save nearly $340,000 over the next five years by approving iXP's proposal, largely by avoiding costly overtime payments the town would have to pay employees.
“You don’t privatize fire; you don’t privatize police; you don’t privatize the people who dispatch those agencies – it’s too critical," said Frank Herrick, the union representative working with the dispatchers. “You got real professionals working on this; why would we go to an untried, no experienced agency?”