Tuesday, December 16, 2008
MAYORS RESPOND TO 10th ANNUAL
For the 10th consecutive year, over two 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 a source of direction and will assist League Executive Board and staff during what could prove to be a critical year for municipalities and property taxes.
Of the mayors responding, 79% said binding arbitration of public safety officers’ contracts is a major impediment to controlling salary expenses. Despite various pension reform laws of the past several years, 90% of mayors believe whole reform will not occur unless all pension systems are fully and equally explored to curb escalating costs of employee benefits. To help ease the property tax burden on residents, 56% of mayors responding support allowing municipalities to levy a local option tax, if there is a need. The remaining 34% expressed opposition to a local tax option.
The growing awareness of the importance of green technology to improve the quality of life for present and future generations has led many municipalities to begin a discussion of the benefits and savings of becoming “green” municipalities. By six to one (86% to14%), mayors responded such discussion has begun in their communities.
Similarly, the current push to promote smaller, more fuel efficient cars could potentially mean the gas tax would no longer be viewed as a viable revenue source to support infrastructure improvement needs. When asked their opinion, 55% of mayors agreed the gas tax might not be a viable revenue source if such were to occur on a wide scale basis. Forty-two percent (42%) of mayors did not support this notion and 3% did not respond.
On providing affordable housing, most of the disagreement centers around the regulations issued by COAH. Of those mayors responding, 79% indicated their municipality intends to file for COAH certification and 21% answered “no”. However, by two to one margin (58% to 26%), mayors answered their town will meet the December 31st filing deadline. No responses were reported by 16% of mayors.
In an interesting finding, the survey reported a narrow gap on the question of eminent domain as a component of a viable, economic development strategy. Mayors responded 51% to 49% in favor of using eminent domain but several mayors commented only as a last resort and with controls.
On economic development, mayors were asked to select which of the following they viewed as the most important incentive the State can provide to assist their economic development efforts.
- Expediting DEP, DOT and DCA permitting process selected by 50% of responding mayors.
- Providing State financial assistance was chosen by 30% of responding mayors
- Reconciliation of State development policies (Highlands and Pinelands Acts; the State Plan and CAFRA) selected by 16% of responding mayors.
The Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission was created to develop performance standards by which municipal efficiency can be evaluated. Mayors were asked to rank in numerical order the listed factors they believe LUARCC should consider in any evaluation of municipal efficiency.
1. Municipal Expenditures (ranked #1 by 135 mayors)
2. Local Purpose Tax (113 mayors)
3. Development Restrictions (95 mayors)
4. Population of municipality (90 mayors)
5. Size of Municipality (acreage) (83 mayors)
6. Other* (15 mayors)
*Other identified as State mandates, union contracts, cost of government per resident, local tax burden, shared services efforts, impact of school funding, number of F/T employees, and planning. A few responded the State should be evaluated first.
Thirteen mayors did not respond to this question.
Contact: William G. Dressel, Jr. Executive Director
(609) 695-3481 ext. 122
(609) 915-9072 (cell)
Surveys were mailed to all mayors and distributed in the Mayors’ Information Center at the Annual Convention in Atlantic City during November 18-21, 2008. The response rate of 40% represents two hundred and twenty-five mayors.