December 11, 2013
Re: User Fee Bill before Assembly Committee
Tomorrow the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee will be discussing S-1914/A-2975, 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. The bills are up for “discussion only” and will not advance tomorrow. The League of Municipalities strongly opposes S-1914/A-2975.
Specifically, the bill would require only municipalities to reduce their property tax levy cap by the amount of revenue anticipated for any user fee for “traditional municipal services” that was previously funded through the municipal budget. The bill would impact user fees in municipal budgets adopted after the enactment of the bill.
“Traditional Municipal Services” is defined as “those basic services provided generally throughout the municipality without regard to a taxpayer’s preference, and which have traditionally funded through the municipal purposes property tax level, including but not limited to the clearing and lighting of roads and streets, the collection and disposal of solid waste, leaves and recyclable materials along the roads and streets, general police patrol and response, and fire response.” This open ended definition will leave municipalities and State regulators unsure on its application and therefore, unable to properly plan for future years. At times it is appropriate to fund some services by user fees, especially those services for which a recipient and a cost can be clearly and accurately calculated.
User fees are not a new budgeting tool; nor is there a statewide effort by municipalities to use user fees to circumvent the 2% levy cap. Almost all local units of local government enact user fees to recapture some of the costs for services provided in their community. As local units struggle to meet 2% levy cap, without the full effects of the management reforms and the continued diversion of energy receipt taxes, officials are forced to re-examine their budget and priorities. In order to deliver the services that their residents expect and want 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.
A copy of the bill is available at: http://www.njslom.org/documents/s1914.pdf
We urge you to contact your Assembly representatives and express your objections to S-1914/A-2975.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Lori Buckelew at 609-695-3481 ext. 112 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.