June 8, 2011
RE: S-2794, Shared Services Bill That Threatens Local Discretion Up in Committee on Monday
On Monday, June 13, the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee is scheduled to consider S-2794. The bill, which was discussed in our letter of March 11 (http://www.njslom.org/letters/2011-0311-S-2794.html), would amend the statutes that created the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC), and grant LUARCC greater powers and duties regarding consolidation and shared services proposals. Beyond this, the bill aims to remove many of the impediments to service sharings and consolidations, caused by terminal pay requirements, employee tenure provisions and Civil Service statutes and regulations. While we appreciate many of those provisions, we must oppose the bill, as currently drafted.
The bill would send a consolidation or shared service proposal, submitted by LUARCC, and not specifically vetoed by the Legislature, to the voters of the effected local governments for approval or rejection. If the voters rejected the LUARCC recommendation, the bill would allow the State to reduce their future “State aid” funding. In other words, the voters would be threatened with the diminishment of future property tax relief funding, if they do not vote in favor of a LUARCC recommendation.
Beyond our confusion regarding the meaning of the term “State aid,” we must oppose any proposal which would, on the one hand, allow the voters to express their will; but, on the other hand, inform those voters that they will be punished, if their will does not comport with that of a majority of the appointed members of the LUARCC.
We, further, oppose the imposition of a Legislative veto of a LUARCC proposal, instead of vesting that decision in local elected officials. Every Mayor and every member of a local governing body is elected by and must answer to the citizens who would be directly affected by a LUARCC proposal. Those local officials are intimately aware of local conditions, needs and concerns. They, themselves, as citizens, will share in the consequences – both positive and not – that will flow from the implementation of a LUARCC proposal. A decision that could have lasting consequences for taxpaying citizens should be vested in the democratically elected body that best represents the interests of those citizens. In this case, the Legislature is, clearly, not that body.
Finally, we question the need for a plebiscite on every recommendation to be promulgated by LUARCC. Again, local officials can judge the merits of the recommendations more expeditiously and more economically than requiring each and every one to go before the voters. And locally elected officials are in the best position to determine those instances when a proposal needs to go before the voters.
As we approach the Legislature’s Summer recess, things can move quickly in Trenton. Accordingly, we urge you to contact your Legislators on this bill and its Assembly companion, A-3918, which awaits a hearing in the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee.
If you have any questions, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.