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November 19, 2012

Re:      S-2 Amended by Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Now Heads to Senate Floor

Dear Mayor:

Today, League President and Mount Arlington Mayor Art Ondish and Lake Como Council President Brian Wilton testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee in opposition to S-2, which was amended and then passed by the Committee. (click here for the testimony)

Our main objection to S-2 continues to be a fundamental issue.  We must continue to 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 penalized if their will does not comport with that of a majority of the appointed members of the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC).   This is a fundamental position, respecting our voters and the concept of self-determination

Today’s amendments to S-2 are troubling.  Initially S-2 removed or reduced many of the roadblocks that increase the costs of shared services – things like terminal leave, pay, civil service mandates, employee tenure requirements – many of the original provisions in bill could reduce the costs and hurdles to shared services and consolidations, produce municipal savings and promote relief for our taxpayers.  No longer would Civil Service be an impediment to sharing services.  However, the amendments seem to discourage shared services from a municipalities' perspective by continuing the hindrances imposed by Civil Service.

One of the amendments would require any non civil service municipality sharing services with civil service municipality to be brought into the civil service system.  Accordingly the civil service reform is only in the sense that it expands the civil service system.

Another of the amendments would make two municipalities subject to civil service rules and collective bargaining agreements for determining which employee stays, protects the seniority provisions.  Municipalities that are considering merging units want the flexibility to retain the best possible qualified and efficient work force or consolidation in any form doesn't make any sense.  Municipalities need the flexibility to choose which employees it will retain and how to frame their workforce.  The amendment takes that management prerogative completely out of the municipalities’ hands and puts it entirely within the confines of the civil service system and collective bargaining agreements.  This will certainly have a chilling effect on this process.

The amendments also include a provision requiring mediation and arbitration of contractual provisions.  This will impede the process from moving expeditiously and may not result in cost savings.  We do not foresee a smooth merging of two collective barging agreements so we anticipate that mediation and arbitration will become the norm, thus leading to delays and additional cost.

Yet, another amendment requires LUARCC to first study municipalities that do not share services.  It is a misconception that municipalities do not share services.  Shared Services are not a new concept to municipalities.  We have been a long time supporter of shared services.  In fact, the vast majority of municipalities are already involved in sharing of services.  Many of them were initiated long before our current crisis.   So we continue to question what will be the basis for LUARCC to initiate a study once those municipalities that do not share services are completed.

There is no overnight cure to our property tax crisis.  Shared services, consolidation or other cost saving measures are long-term actions where benefits/savings may not be seen for a number of years down the road.  The vast majority of Mayors are willing to consider options, but do no want to see their citizens punished, if they disagree with the decisions reached by LUARCC.  We trust the judgment of the people who elect us.  Legislators need to trust local officials to do the right thing when the situation warrants, as well.  And we all need to work together. 

While we thank Senate President Sweeney and his staff for listening to our concerns, for accepting so many of our recommendations and continuing to involve the League in the process,  we are troubled by the latest amendments that discourage shared services by continuing the hindrances imposed by Civil Service.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate Budget and Appropriation Committee and now heads to the Senate for a floor vote.  We urge you to contact your Senate Senator and ask them to vote NO on S-2.

If you have any questions or need additional information please do not hesitate to contact Lori Buckelew at 609-695-3481 x112 or lbuckelew@njslom.org

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

 

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