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July 14, 2011

Re:      2011 Best Practices Checklist

Dear Mayor:

Today the Governor’s Office issued a press release announcing the 2011 Municipal Best Practices Checklist.  According to the press release, the Best Practices Checklist is part of the administration’s “continued reform efforts to make government operate more efficiently, strengthen its accountability, and better manage scarce taxpayers’ resources.”

Calendar Year municipalities will have until September 1st to complete this year’s checklist, which was shortened from 88 questions to 50 questions. Fiscal Year municipalities will have until April 2, 2012.   Some of the questions were repeated from last year especially those that the Division of Local Government Services believes are important measures of performance worthy of additional monitoring.  The new questions were designed to encourage financial accountability and transparency or to ensure compliance with various laws and regulations.

The Division of Local Government Services will be issuing a Local Finance Notice and guidance on this year’s checklist shortly.  This year, municipalities will be able to fill out and submit the checklist electronically.  In addition to “yes” or “no” answers, the checklist will include the options of “prospective implementation” and “not applicable”, however, Municipalities will be required to explain their answer.  Municipalities should only indicate “prospective implementation” when there is direction from appropriate officials to come into compliance with the best practice and where good faith efforts are under consideration.  The Division will spot check for compliance and may withhold credit if requisite good faith efforts to comply are not apparent.

The Best Practices Checklist will determine how much of the municipality’s final 5% of aid payment will be disbursed based upon the scoring of the checklist.  The criteria this year will allow for withholdings based on a sliding scale up to the maximum statutorily permitted amount as appropriate.  The scoring is as follows:

  • 41-50 questions: 100% of final aid payment is disbursed.  (No penalty)
  • 33-40 questions: 80% of final aid payment.  (lose 20% of final 5% payment – or 1% of aid)
  • 25-32 questions: 60% of final aid payment is disbursed.  (lose 40% of final 5% payment – or 2% of aid)
  • 17-24 questions: 40% of final aid payment is disbursed.  (lose 60% of final 5% payment – or 3% of aid)
  • 9-16 questions:  20% of final aid payment is disbursed.  (lose 80% of final 5% payment – or 4% of aid)
  • 0-8 questions: No final aid payment will be disbursed.  (lose 100% of final 5% payment – or 5% of aid)

Credit will be given for all yes answers and answers of “not applicable” where appropriate explanation has been provided.  Answers of “Prospective Implementation” will be given credit.  The Division cannot withhold funding with respect to municipal practices occurring prior to the issuance of the Best Practices Checklist, except if the practice was part of the 2010 Best Practices Checklist. Municipalities may appeal their score to the Director at the conclusion of the process.    

In addition to the Chief Financial Officer certification the governing body will be required to acknowledge that the completed inventory was placed on an agenda of a public meeting to ensure that local officials have been apprised of all answers. 

A copy of the checklist is available at www.nj.gov/dca/lgs/bestpractice/2011_best_practices_model.pdf

We have reviewed the checklist and provided the Division with some initial comments and feedback.   We believe this year’s checklist is an improvement over last year’s checklist.  We thank Deputy Commissioner BettyLou DeCroce and Division of Local Government Services Director Tom Neff for allowing us an opportunity to provide input early on in the process.

If you have any questions or need additional information please contact Lori Buckelew at lbuckelew@njslom.com or 609-695-3481 x112.

Very truly yours,

 

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

 

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