Friday, September 5, 2008
Today, the League sent the following letter to the Governor asking Legislative Leadership calling for the extension of the December 15th deadline regarding towns to comply with the State Budget mandate concerning police service.
Re: Request to Extend Arbitrary Budget Deadline and to Discuss New Unfunded Mandate
Dear Governor Corzine:
We know you will agree that it is not in the public’s best interest to mandate the expenditure of public funds for an unspecified public benefit. Yet that is what the State Budget will force local officials to do, unless immediate action is taken to delay the implementation of a key provision of Chapter 35, P.L. 2008.
As you know, language in the State’s Appropriations Act requires 89 municipalities to decide, by December 15 of this year, whether they choose to establish a new police department, contract with another entity for police services or pay, into the State Treasury, an amount unilaterally determined by the State Treasurer. If they fail to notify the Treasurer of their choice by that date, or if the choice they make is rejected by the Attorney General, they will be treated as if they had chosen to pay the Treasurer’s assessment. If they fail to remit the amount arbitrarily set by the Treasurer, they will face the reduction or elimination of their 2009 revenue replacement and property tax relief funding.
In order to make a responsible decision, a decision that their constituent taxpayers can rationally evaluate, local officials need to know exactly what services they will receive if they comply with the Treasurer’s demand for funding. Only then can they carefully evaluate the other options offered by the language included in the Appropriations Act and ethically exercise their moral duty to act as careful stewards of the public’s purse.
Despite repeated requests for that essential information, to date the State has been unable to provide it to responsible local decision-makers.
Accordingly, we respectfully ask you, the Treasurer, the Senate President and the Assembly Speaker to take whatever actions are necessary to extend the arbitrary December 15 deadline until such time as local elected officials are provided with and have a real opportunity to evaluate the needed information and to compare the cost and character of State services to their other options.
Last night, we convened a meeting of concerned local elected officials to discuss this issue. That gathering of over 100 public servants directed the League to ask you for this extension of time, and for a meeting, so that we can explain the problems that have been created by this unfunded mandate. We would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to discuss mutually acceptable options that will not cause increased property tax burdens.
Accordingly, we respectfully ask you to give due consideration to this request for a personal meeting with yourself and the Treasurer on this crucial matter, with serious property tax consequences.
We had met, and continue to meet, with representatives of your administration. We were surprised by the language that was included in the Appropriations Act, but were, again, assured of further opportunities to discuss this matter. Accordingly, we were dismayed when municipalities were informed of the cost (but, again, not the detailed benefits) of the State’s unspecified service.
Please take all actions needed to postpone the December 15 deadline. Please give due consideration to our request for a personal meeting on this. Please have your staff contact League Executive Director Bill Dressel concerning your reaction to these requests.
Thank you for your consideration and for all you continue to do for the people and the future of our Garden State.
Very truly yours,
Robert L. Bowser
Mayor, East Orange
|Timothy C. McDonough,
League First Vice President,
League State Policing Task Force,
Member, League Executive Board,
League State Policing Task Force,
Mayor, Buena Vista