May 18, 2012
Re: Urgent Action Alert – Contact Your State Senator and Assembly Representatives
USER FEE BILL released from Committee heading to the Senate floor
Yesterday the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee released with amendments S-1914, which requires certain user fees for the provision of traditional municipal services to be included within the 2% municipal and county property tax levy cap. (For more information see our May 15 Dear Mayor letter) In addition, Assemblyman Burzichelli has proposed for introduction the Assembly companion, A-2975.
There were two amendments to S-1914. The first amendment exempts “amounts collected from insurance carriers pursuant to a fire response cost recovery ordinance or agreement” from the definition of traditional municipal user fees. The second amendment addresses our implementation concern by having S-1914 take effect immediately but applies to municipal budgets introduced and approved in the next budget year following enactment. While we thank Senator Sweeney for addressing one of concerns with the amendments, we must continue to oppose S-1914 for the following reasons:
- User fees are not a new budgeting tool; nor is there a statewide effort by municipalities to circumvent the 2% levy cap. Local governments enact user fees to recapture some of the costs for services provided in their community.
- In fact, as part of their Memorandum of Understanding with Transitional Aid municipalities the Division of Local Government Services requires a Transitional Plan that includes “…a plan to maximize recurring revenues, including but not limited to: updating fees, fines and penalties...”
- User fees provide a direct connection between what people pay and what they get, and good pricing encourages efficiency by providing a ready comparison to private sector competition. And competition spurs creativity.
- The definition of “traditional municipal services” is flawed. The open-ended definition is confusing and leads to multiple interpretations
- The bill only affects municipalities ignoring the typically largest portions of the property tax bill – the schools and counties
- The state should focus on the remaining management reforms that were part of the 2% cap that have not been addressed - Restoration of the Energy Receipt Taxes, COAH Reform, Civil Service Reforms, and Accumulated Sick Leave reforms.
- Towns are struggling to make the 2% cap workable
League Senior Legislative Analyst Lori Buckelew, Mayor of Pt. Pleasant Beach Vince Barrella, and
Haddonfield Administrator/Chief Financial Officer,
Testifying before the Senate Budget Appropriation Committee yesterday, Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Vince Barrella (copy of his testimony is available on our website), Haddonfield Administrator/Chief Financial Officer Sharon McCullough and Lori Buckelew continued to raise our concerns. During the hearing it was evident that almost every Senator had their interpretation of the definition of “traditional municipal service”.
We strongly urge you to contact your State Senator and Assembly representatives to advise them on how S-1914/A-2975 will adversely affect your ability to meet the delivery of services that your residents expect. Local officials have been making structural changes to their budget, including how programs are funded. Municipalities must continue to have the flexibility to meet these demands not have their hands tied further by legislation.
In addition, if you have not done so already we urge you to adopt the following sample resolution opposing S-1914:
PDF – www.njslom.org/resolutions/s_1914_resolution.pdf
Word – www.njslom.org/resolutions/s_1914_resolutions.doc
If you have any questions or need additional information do not hesitate to contact Lori Buckelew at 609-695-3481 x112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.