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February 5, 2010

RE: S-458 (Collection, assessment, health and animal control bill)

Dear Mayor:

A Senate bill has been introduced (S-458), which would mandate a county-wide binding referendum in every county in the State on the transfer of a predetermined package of municipal responsibilities to the county. We have informed the sponsors of this bill that we oppose its passage. This bill has not yet been scheduled for consideration by the Legislature.

S-458 is based on the unstudied assumption that countywide administration of municipal property tax assessment and collection, municipal animal control services and municipal public health services will result in long-term cost savings. It is further based on the belief that the price of a service determines its value to the public.

We have encouraged the Legislature to refrain from a rush to judgment, until such questions are studied by the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission. The Legislature’s Special Session for Property Tax Reform created the LUARCC, and charged the Commission with studying and reporting on the structure and functions of county and municipal government, including local taxing districts, their statutory bases, the fiscal relationship between local governments and the appropriate allocation of service delivery responsibilities from the standpoint of efficiency. The Commission will also consider optimal service levels, ratios of employees to population served, cost structures for service delivery and other best practices.

Until the Commission completes this work, we cannot be sure that the arbitrary transfer of these four functions makes any sense at all; let alone whether it makes sense for the taxpayers of every municipality in every county. Indeed, the Commission could find that greater efficiency would be achieved by the elimination of certain county governments, in their entirety.

We did, however, commend the sponsors for recognizing the need to eliminate certain statutory impediments to greater inter-local cooperation in the delivery of public health services. And we support Section 4 of the bill, which would repeal those impediments.

Our affiliate organization, the Tax Collectors and Treasurers Association has prepared a sample letter and resolution opposing S-548, which is available on their website at http://www.tctanj.org/

We will contact you again on this, if the bill is scheduled for Committee consideration.

Very truly yours,



William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director


 

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