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February 12, 2014

Re:    Zero Percent (0%) Levy Cap

Dear Mayor:

According to recent press reports, Senate President Stephen Sweeney is considering the introduction of legislation that would lower the municipal property tax levy cap to zero percent (0%), in order to force local governments to share more services. 

We thank him for his leadership on meaningful pension and health benefit reforms that have helped to mitigate local costs and that will continue to do so for years to come.  We commend his consistent support for the return of Energy Receipts Property Tax Relief to municipalities. We thank him for his commitment to extend the 2% cap on binding arbitration awards beyond the April 1 sunset. And we deeply appreciate the respect and consideration he has always shown to municipal officials and to the League.

But we cannot agree with any proposal that will make it more difficult for mayors and municipal governing body members to meet their legitimate responsibilities to protect the health, safety and property of all people they are sworn to serve

With all due respect, there is no need to impose any new challenges on municipal budget makers. Over the last few years, local officials have managed to balance their budgets as property values declined, tax appeals increased, development and economic activity stalled, employment slumped and dedicated municipal property tax relief funding was diverted, at an unprecedented rate, to the State budget. During every one of those same years, local officials have managed to fund their pension obligations for local employees, and to meet their responsibilities to fund a laundry list of mandates imposed by the State and Federal governments.

Over those same years, local officials all around New Jersey have had to respond to a succession of natural disasters including Hurricane Irene, the Halloween snow storm, the great derecho, Superstorm Sandy and, currently, one of the worst winters in years.

For decades, local officials have been cooperating with their colleagues in neighboring municipalities, their colleagues on local school boards and their colleagues in county government on cost saving measures that make sense for their citizens. Many would like to do more, but State imposed impediments – like inflexible Civil Service rules – hamstring local efforts.

We agree that the recent consolidation of the Princetons serves as an outstanding example of how things can be done when citizens are allowed to decide that consolidation is in their best interests. We note, however, that the partnership of the Princetons was made more practical by the fact that neither the Township nor the Borough had adopted the Civil Service system.

Again, we thank Senate President Sweeney for all he has done and continues to do for our members and for all the people of our State. But we must object to this initiative, which would, we believe, further limit the flexibility local officials need to fulfill their oaths of office and to effectively and efficiently manage the affairs of their municipalities.  

Very truly yours,

Suzanne M. Walters, President
NJLM and Mayor,
Stone Harbor Borough

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director




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