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August 27, 2012

Re:      Best Practices Checklist Issued

Dear Mayor:

The Division of Local Government Services has issued Local Finance Notice 2012-18 regarding the CY 2012/SFY 2013 Best Practices Inventory. 

The Best Practices Inventory (“Inventory") is an excel worksheet which will be submitted electronically to the Division.  The Inventory must be certified by your Chief Financial Officer and discussed at a public meeting.  The excel worksheet is available at www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dlgs/programs/best_practices_docs/2012_bp_worksheet.xls.

The following are the highlights:

  • The Inventory is due by September 28th for Calendar Year or Transitional Fiscal year municipalities.  Fiscal Year municipalities must return their questionnaire by April 1, 2013.
  • The Inventory remains at 50 questions, 29 of which are new.  However, some of the repeated questions may be in a different form as compared to last year, but, the same information is being sought.
  • In addition to allowing for “yes” or “no” answers, certain questions allows for the option of answering “prospective” or “not applicable”.
  •  “Not applicable” is only an appropriate answer if a municipality concludes that the requirement is impossible to meet given the municipality’s circumstances.  Using “not applicable” will require an explanation of why it is not applicable.  There are 34 questions that the Division has identified that should be applicable for all municipalities; therefore, those questions cannot be answered “not applicable”.
  •  “Prospective” should only be used to indicate that compliance with a practice will be forthcoming in the upcoming year based on good faith efforts and direction from the appropriate officials to implement the practice.  Repeated questions, of which there are 21, cannot be answered “prospective”.
  • The completed Inventory must be an agenda item for discussion at a municipal governing body meeting and the municipal clerk must subsequently file a certification confirming that the questionnaire was discussed publicly.  The discussion can occur before or after the actual submission of the Inventory.
  • The Chief Financial Officer must certify the results and submit the form.
  • Municipalities can appeal to the Director their scoring at the conclusion of the process.

This year’s criteria for withholding property tax relief funding will use a sliding scale up to the full amount of the final aid payment:

# of Questions scored yes, prospective, or “not applicable”

Amount of Aid Disbursed

Impact on final 5% aid payment/impact on total aid

41-50

100%

No penalty

33-40

80%

Lose 20% which equals 1% of total aid

25-32

60%

Lose 40% which equals 2% of total aid

17-24

40%

Lose 60% which equals 3% of total aid

9-16

20%

Lose 80% which equals 4% of total aid

0-8

0%

Lose 100% which equals 5% of total aid

The State Appropriations Act requires the Director to exercise discretion and flexibility in scoring the Inventory and reasonable accommodations will be considered where circumstances warrant.  Credit will be given for all “yes” answers, as well as answers of “not applicable”, where it is a permissible answer.  The answers of “prospective, where permissible, will be credited where the question was not a repeated question for last year.  The Division will actively review completed Inventories and may withhold credit if requisite good faith efforts to comply are not apparent.

We have reviewed the checklist and provided the Division with some initial comments and feedback.   We thank Division of Local Government Services Director Tom Neff for allowing us an opportunity to provide input in the process.  While unable to address all of our concerns, the Division considered and made changes to the Inventory based on our suggestions. 

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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