November 29, 2012
RE: Shared Services Bill Threatens to Penalize Taxpayers
Recent Amendments Weaken Management Reforms
Today in Trenton, the Senate passed S-2 on a vote of 25-9. This bill was originally designed to remove impediments to greater sharing of services by municipalities.
The League of Municipalities had urged Senators to vote “No” on S-2, which now includes amendments that would weaken management reforms included in an earlier version. The bill would also threaten to penalize taxpayers.
First, we oppose the recent committee amendments to S-2, which could weaken provisions of the bill that would have removed or reduced many of the roadblocks that increase the costs of shared services and consolidations. The new amendments weaken the management reforms that would have reduced taxpayer costs and increased service efficiency.
Municipalities that are considering sharing services need the flexibility to retain the best qualified and most efficient work force. The recent amendments take that prerogative away and leave local government entirely at the mercy of the civil service system and collective bargaining agreements. This will certainly have a chilling effect on this process.
A number of Senators expressed concerns with these recent amendments.
Second, the bill increases the powers of the State’s Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC). It would allow that body to advance a shared services proposal. If the municipal governing body or local voters reject that proposal, the bill would allow the State to reduce a municipality’s Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Aid (CMPTRA) funding. The cut would equal the amount of projected ‘savings’ that would have been produced by the proposal, as estimated by the State.
The League has always opposed that provision of the bill; and we strongly object to the idea that voters should be threatened with a reduction in property tax relief funding, if they fail to ratify a proposal advanced by a majority of the appointed members of a State study commission. Citizens should hold elected officials accountable, not the other way around. Further, the bill would not require the State to hold local taxpayers harmless, in the event the projections of ‘savings’ prove incorrect.
Though the bill includes some beneficial provisions, and we appreciate the sponsor’s willingness to address some of our earlier concerns, we cannot support it as it now stands.
The bill now moves over to the Assembly, where it will join its original companion bill, A-1171, in the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee. Please contact your representatives in the General Assembly and urge them to oppose S-2/A1171.
If you have any questions on this, please contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.