February 25, 2014
League President Reacts to Governor’s Budget Proposal
“Mayors working with their local governing bodies over the past five years deserve credit for making the tough decisions in tough times,” said League of Municipalities’ President and Stone Harbor Mayor Suzanne M. Walters.
“We have pruned budgets, pursued savings, engaged in tough negotiations, reduced the workforce, shared services, cut spending, applied best practices, emptied reserve accounts and deferred investments. We did this as property values declined, tax appeals increased, development and economic activity stalled, employment slumped and property tax relief funding was diverted to the State budget.”
While property tax relief funding has not been reduced, New Jersey municipalities will, once again, balance their budgets without the benefit of all the property tax relief funding that is their due.
Municipalities lost $331 million in combined Energy Tax and Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Aid (CMPTRA) funding in Fiscal Years 2009, 2010, and 2011, while also being denied scheduled incremental funding. That $331 million has been used in each succeeding year to balance the State’s annual spending. The proposal would continue this practice for yet another year.
Mayors Walters added, “In the face of these challenges, keeping property tax increases down would not have been possible without real bipartisan reforms enacted by the Governor and the Legislature. For things like the 2% cap on arbitration awards and pensions and benefits reforms, the Governor and Legislative leaders deserve our thanks and recognition. It took political courage to advance those reforms.
“Looking at the Governor’s budget proposal, again, makes the need to continue these policies more obvious than ever. As the first order of business, we call on State policymakers to take action to ensure that the limit on police and fire contract arbitration awards remains in place.”
Unless the Legislature acts to extend the April 1 ‘sunset’ of the limitation on arbitrator awards for police and fire personnel salaries, steps and longevity payments to an average of 2 percent annually over the life of a contract, our taxpayers will lose that essential protection. Such awards would immediately threaten funding for all other municipal services. And, in the not-too-distant future, such awards could force local budget makers to reduce public safety staffing levels, as fewer local employees steadily take home higher percentages of local funds.
“We look forward to working with the Administration and the Legislature over the coming months to provide further property tax relief and protection for our local residents and businesses,” said Mayor Walters.
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For further information contact: William G. Dressel, Jr., Executive Director at (609) 695-3481, extension 122 or 609-915-9072.
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