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November 25, 2009

RE: Lame Duck Legislative Session Begins

Dear Mayor:

The State Legislature returned yesterday after a nearly 6-month recess, and there was action on a number of bills of interest to municipalities.

MEASURE TO STREAMLINE PROPERTY TAX REASSESSMENT ADVANCES
The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee unanimously approved S-2711, which would streamline the property tax reassessment process to permit the assessor to more easily and efficiently perform reassessments in a part of a taxing district. The Committee also amended the bill to raise the threshold for a direct appeal to the Tax Court from an assessment exceeding $750,000 to an assessment exceeding $1,000,000.

Under current law, reassessments of property values in a section of a taxing district are not permitted unless the assessor notifies several local and state offices and receives approvals from the county tax board and Division of Taxation.  This often cumbersome process is designed to encourage assessors to limit reassessments to an entire taxing district.  The current policy furthers a laudable goal of reassessing all properties at the same time to avoid concerns that portions of a taxing district are being singled out.  Unfortunately the district wide process does not allow assessors to deal swiftly with rapidly changing property values. Property reassessments or revaluations for an entire taxing district can take multiple years to accomplish and can be a very expensive for the district. In the meantime, the property owner’s only recourse is to appeal the assessment.

This bill would simplify the process for a reassessment of a portion of a taxing district by requiring that the assessor notify, in writing, only the county board of taxation and the county tax administrator of the assessor’s determination that a reassessment of certain real property in the taxing district is warranted.  The bill also provides that the assessor must submit a copy of a compliance plan only to the county board of taxation for approval.  Finally, the bill would remove the current provision that, if the assessor does not receive an approval decision or a decision disapproving the plan from either the county board of taxation or the Division of Taxation within 45 days of their receipt of the compliance plan, then the entity that did not respond shall be deemed to have approved the plan. Under the bill, the Division of Taxation will not be part of the decision process and the county board of taxation will be required to act affirmatively to approve or disapprove the compliance plan.

The bill, co-sponsored by Senators Singer and Sarlo, is now positioned for approval by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

ANIMAL HOUSE BILL (A-3056 & S-869) ADVANCES
The Assembly Housing and Local Government committee approved A-3056 and S-869, the so-called “Animal House” bills.   This legislation would permit municipalities to adopt ordinances holding landlords to standards of responsibility in the selection of tenants, supervise the rental premises and post a bond in certain circumstances.  Under current law, only shore communities are authorized to do this.    A-3056 and S-869 would expand the authority to enact such ordinances to all municipalities.   This legislation has already passed the State Senate.  We suggest contacting your Assembly representatives and ask them to support A-3056 and S-869. 

LOCAL PUBLIC CONTRACTS PRICE ADJUSTMENTS BILL (A-436 & S-2833) ADVANCES
The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee also approved A-436/S-2833, which permits price adjustments in certain local public contracts for asphalt, cement, and fuel.  The bill would require bid specifications prepared pursuant to section 16 of the "Local Public Contracts Law," P.L.1971, c.198 (C.40A:11-16), to include an adjustment for changes in the cost of hot mix asphalt if it is used in certain quantities. The legislation contains a similar requirement for a fuel price adjustment for certain items.    

We oppose the bill in its current form, believing that these provisions should not apply to short term contracts.    The bill now awaits final approval by the State Senate.

MORTGAGE STABILIZATION AND RELIEF ACT (A-3993 & S-2777) ADVANCES
The Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee also approved A-3993/S-2777, which amends the Mortgage Stabilization and Relief Act to provide additional notice and protections for tenants and municipalities when title to a property is transferred to a creditor due to foreclosure.

This legislation has already passed the State Senate.  We suggest contacting your Assembly representatives and ask them to support A-3993 and S-2777.

PREVAILING WAGE REQUIREMENTS FOR FOOD AND BUILDING SERVICES (A-4151& S-2850)
The Senate Labor Committee held S-2850, which expands the prevailing wage requirements for contractors and subcontractors for food services and building services at any property or premises owned or leased by a public body.  The Assembly version, A-4151, reported out Assembly Appropriations committee with amendments.

We believe that this bill is a state mandate that will dramatically increase the cost of services and ultimately lead to property tax increases.  Since a purchase order is a contract the bill impacts everything from donuts and coffee at a meeting to the Founder’s Day Event.  We oppose this bill in the present form as it will drive up cost and harm competitive contracting.

Please contact us at (609) 695-3481 x120, x121 or x112 if you have any questions on these bills,

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

 

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