June 13, 2011
RE: S-2794, Shared Services/Consolidation Bill That Removes Impediments, But Threatens Local Discretion Advances
Today in Trenton, the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee released, without recommendation, S-2794. The vote was 3, in favor, and 2, opposed. Each of the three Senators who voted to advance the bill expressed reservations with a number of its provisions. The bill will now be referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, for consideration of its fiscal impact.
The bill, which was discussed in our letters of March 11 (http://www.njslom.org/letters/2011-0311-S-2794.html) and June 8 (http://www.njslom.org/letters/2011-0608-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.
(photo - l to r) Greg Fehrenbach, Jon Moran, League Sr Legislative Analyst and Mayor Arthur Ondish Mayor Mount Arlington and League 1st VP, prepare to testify on S-2794
League First Vice President Mayor Art Ondish of Mount Arlington commended the sponsor, Senator Sweeney. Mayor Ondish voiced League support for the many provisions of the bill, which would remove several of the impediments to service sharings and consolidations. The League’s Inter-local Services/ Management Coordinator Greg Fehrenbach urged the Committee to strengthen and expand on those positive reforms. Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr submitted a letter to the Committee, which also cited the beneficial aspects of the legislation, which would address terminal pay requirements, employee tenure provisions and Civil Service statutes and regulations that currently eliminate many of the potential benefits of shared service initiatives.
But, while we appreciate many of those provisions, we must oppose the bill, as currently drafted.
First, if the voters rejected a LUARCC shared services 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. 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.
Second, the bill would continue to impose 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. 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. Mayor Mahr has proposed a reasonable amendment that would allow local governing bodies to by-pass the Legislature, if they oppose the LUARCC proposal with a two-thirds vote.
Finally, we question the need for a referendum 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.
We sincerely hope to see these issues addressed, so that we can support a bill with so many beneficial provisions. In the meantime 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.