December 28, 2011
Mayors Respond to 13th Annual League Survey
For the 13th consecutive year, over one hundred mayors offered their views on several major policy areas in response to the League’s Annual Legislative Priority Survey. Their responses to specific issues provide direction and will assist the League Executive Board and staff during what could be a critical year for municipalities and property taxpayers.
2011 was the first budget year that municipal leaders had to comply with the 2% property tax levy cap. One year later what have learned?
29% of the Mayors indicated their municipality’s final total levy increased 2%, with the exclusions for debt services, capital expenditures, pension cost, health benefit cost and declared emergencies. While 19.35% saw tax levy increases of between 1.5 and 1.99%, over last year’s level. Followed by 18% whose tax levy increase was under 1%.
When asked what action(s) they took to meet the 2% cap the Mayors ranked them as follows:
- Shared Services
- Used a higher percentage of surplus than in previous years
- Increased Health Care contribution from employees
- Deferred Capital Improvements
- Concessions from Employees
- Increased Fees
- Reduced staff from Full-time to Part-time
- Reduced appropriation to the capital improvement fund
- Reduced Services (tie)
- Lay-offs (tie)
- Furloughs (tie)
- One-time revenue (i.e. sale of public property) (tie)
- Initiated Accelerated Tax Sale
Municipalities are continuing to see an increase in tax appeals. 66% of the Mayors saw an increase in their residential tax appeals in 2011. Of those, 63% noted that the results of the tax appeals will impact their available surplus in their 2012 budget. However, 71% noted that they do not plan on increasing their budget in regards to fighting tax appeals in 2012.
Another impact on municipal budgets is the cost associated with defending a municipality’s compliance with the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). Only 15% of the Mayors noted that their municipality had appeared before the Government Records Council or Superior Court regarding OPRA. Of those municipalities, municipal attorney fees ranged from $1,300 to $10,000. Only one Mayor reported paying prevailing attorney fees of $6,000.
The survey also indicates a changing trend in how municipalities plan to meet their affordable housing obligations. Nearly half of the Mayors noted that once a prospective housing obligation is determined their municipality will implement 100% municipal sponsored partnerships with non-profit sponsors housing to address part of their future obligation. These projects rely heavily on subsidies, and as a result 94% support a legislative change to push the July 2012 deadline established by PL 2008, c. 46, which establishes that a municipality has 4 years to commit their housing trust fund dollars.
Of an interesting note, 59% of the Mayors surveyed support an increase in State motor fuel taxes if and only if the proceeds are to be used to finance the repair and renovation of municipal and county transportation infrastructures.
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For further information contact: William G. Dressel, Jr., Executive Director at (609)695-3481, extension 122 or 609-915-9072 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Surveys were mailed to all mayors and distributed in the Mayors’ Information Center at the Annual Convention in Atlantic City during November 15-17, 2011.
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