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April 10, 2008

S-1455 County Assumption Referendum Mandate



Dear Mayor:

We strongly oppose S-1455, 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. This bill 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 would encourage the Legislature to wait 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 LUARC over a year ago, and it held its organizational meeting just this past Monday. The Commission is charged 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 sets to 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. Again, one year after the historic Special Session for Property Tax Reform, which was supposed to eliminate the need for a Citizens’ Convention, our property taxpayers will be led to believe that their problems can be solved simply, quickly and painlessly. We, respectfully, disagree.

That being said, we 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. On balance, however, we must oppose S-1455. Please share your feelings on this with your Legislators. If you have any questions on this, please contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.


                                                                        Very truly yours,


                                                                        William G. Dressel, Jr.
                                                                        Executive Director





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