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May 22, 2015

RE:    Weekly Policy Update 

Municipal Clerk: Please forward a copy to all Governing Body Members

Dear Mayor:

Here’s a recap of major policy issues of interest to local governments. 

I.  BPU Approves Agreement to Remove Verizon’s Landline Quality Standards

On May 19th the commissioners of the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) approved a proposed stipulation agreement between Verizon New Jersey (Verizon) and BPU staff. This proposed agreement stems from a proceeding dating back to 2011. A copy of this agreement can be found at http://www.njslom.org/legislation/bpustipulation.pdf .

This agreement does two things. First, it would deregulate four areas of rate regulated service: 1) residential basic exchange service; 2) single line business basic exchange service; 3) residence service connection and installation; and 4) residential directory assistance services. Second, section 20 of the proposed agreement purports to remove “all service quality standards [which would apply] to residential basic local exchange service and single line business service” three or five years after the proposed stipulation agreement is approved.

The League opposed this agreement for procedural and substantive reasons. The League requested input from our municipal members and received a number of comments from municipalities in Salem, Cumberland, Burlington, Atlantic and Ocean counties complaining of Verizon’s landline service quality and lack of alternatives. Soon the BPU will issue an order to effectuate this agreement. The League will provide updates after we have reviewed this document.

In the meantime, the League is trying to get a handle on the scope of this issue. If your municipality has experienced landline service quality problems with Verizon please provide an overview of the issue and email it to Ed Purcell Esq. at epurcell@njslom.org.
Contact:  Ed Purcell, Esq., 609-695-3481 x137 or epurcell@njslom.org

II.  Local Property Tax Relief Funding Unaffected by Updated State Revenue Projections

On Tuesday, for the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, and on Wednesday, for the Assembly Budget Committee, Office of Legislative Services (OLS) Budget and Finance Officer David J. Rosen and State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff presented revised estimates of revenues that will accrue to the State during the current (SFY 2015) and the upcoming (SFY 2016) budget years. These annual revisions, which are provided after all April tax collections are in the bank, allow State Legislators to put the State’s SFY 2016 Appropriations Act together, with assurance that they have in hand the best possible information.

Based largely on better than anticipated income tax collections, both OLS and the Treasurer project stronger State finances. Compared to the revenue estimates that were used by the Governor in February, when he presented his budget proposal to the Legislature, OLS expects an additional $270.7 million in SFY 2015 and an increase of $140.1 million in SFY 2016, despite the fact that Sales Tax, Corporate Business Tax and Lottery revenues will not meet previous projections.  This would give the State a total of $411 million, not anticipated back in February. The Treasurer’s somewhat less optimistic estimates would mean an increase in available revenues of $204.4 million in the current budget and $6.9 million in SFY 2016, totaling $211 million.

In addition to increased revenues, the Treasurer has identified a net $8 million in unanticipated lapses. The Treasurer indicated that the Governor will ask the Legislature to add the $212 million, not previously budgeted for SFY 2015, ($8 million in lapses, plus $204.4 in increased revenue collections)to the State’s SFY 2015 pension liability payment.

Barring an adverse decision by the State Supreme Court in the pension funding cases, it appears that there will be no change in municipal property tax relief funding, this year. Both Dr. Rosen’s and Treasurer Sidamon-Eristoff’s statements, along with other valuable information on State Budget developments, are available on the OLS website at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/legislativepub/govbudget2015-2016.asp
Contact: Jon Moran, 609-695-3481, x 120 or jmoran@njslom.org

III.  New FCC Rules Become Effective Which Limit the Authority of Municipalities Regarding Cell Tower Collocation

The Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently approved an FCC rule which would limit the authority of municipalities regarding cell tower collocation. In brief, this new rule streamlines the municipal approval process. If a municipality does not act on a modification proposal subject to this rule within sixty days, it is deemed “granted.” The streamlined process of limited local review would apply to proposals for modification of existing towers and base stations, which are not deemed, by the rules, to “substantially change” the physical dimensions of a tower or base station.

For more information please see our letter of May 21st http://www.njslom.org/letters/2015-0521-cell-tower.html
Contact:  Ed Purcell, Esq., 609-695-3481 x137 or epurcell@njslom.org

IV. Latest Census Bureau Population Estimates Available

The United State Census Bureau has posted its 2014 population estimates. If you are interested in seeing the results for all New Jersey municipalities, visit: http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/PEP/2014/PEPANNRES/0400000US34.06100.

For more information on a variety of census topics, including the U.S. and World Population Clocks, visit http://www.census.gov/ You will also be able to access data on business activity, educational attainment, employment, families and living arrangements, health, housing, income and poverty levels, international trade and public sector activities. The latter includes information on voting and registration, building permits, taxes, employment and finances.

Links to the 2010 decennial census data remains available on the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Developments page at http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/lpa/census/Census_index.html

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

 

 

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