Cape May County could learn a thing or two

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Mountains and oceans aren’t the only major differences between Pennsylvania and South Jersey.

Just compare local governments.

I’m from Cameron County, Pa., which has a population of just over 5,000.

The three-member county commissioner board adopted a $5.3 million budget in December. That county has about 30 government employees.

Cape May County has a population of 97,265, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

The five-member board of freeholders recently adopted a $139 million budget. Cape May County has nearly 1,000 year-round employees, too.

Differences also exist at the municipality level.

My hometown of Emporium, Pa., is an example. There are 2,073 residents, and the budget totals about $1.17 million.

Emporium is a small community, with many residents employed at factories.

Stone Harbor has 866 residents, and a 2012 proposed budget of $13.3 million. Stone Harbor is a resort community, with a far greater population during the summer.

Budgets are also adopted by the end of the year in Pennsylvania.

Some municipalities in New Jersey, of course, are beginning to introduce budgets.

Bloated budgets aren’t the only thing that’s different between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Like some municipalities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania also has three-member boards. But they’re named supervisors instead of committee members.

And they’re paid a lot less.

According to the Middle Township’s 2011 budget, township committee salary and wages totaled $52,500 for the three-person board. Middle’s population is 18,911 people, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

For a Pennsylvania township that has a population 15,000-24,999, a supervisor can only receive as much as $4,125.

Political mud slinging is another difference as well.

Party affiliation – Democrats and Republicans – have little to no affect on elections in small Cameron County.

In Cape May County, it surely does make a difference.

The Dennis Township Committee race led to two incumbents and two other candidates throwing accusations. Incumbents accused the one candidate of failing his duties on the township zoning board by not attending many of the meetings.

This kind of sparring would not be found in Cameron County.

And then there’s the school board.

In Pennsylvania, school board members run in the Primary and General elections. There are no elections specifically for the school board race.

The same goes for fire district elections in New Jersey. Pennsylvania does not have fire districts.

One Middle Township official suggested that the fire district elections in New Jersey be moved just like the school board elections recently have been. That township official is correct.

The Board of Education elections have been moved to the November General Election, and that’s a start.

Consolidation is the key.

Cape May County municipalities do engage in shared services agreements, such as with animal control. It saves taxpayers money.

Cameron County partners with a neighboring county for emergency dispatches. It works well, considering the coverage area is more than 37,000 people, not including visitors passing through.

That’s where Cape May County and Cameron County share commonalities.

Even still, local governing officials, look toward Pennsylvania municipalities for an example of cutting budgets.

It can be done.

Not simply, but it can be done.


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