SENATE, No. 38

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

212th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED DECEMBER 4, 2006

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator BOB SMITH

District 17 (Middlesex and Somerset)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Establishes "Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission"; establishes measures for local government efficiency; appropriates $95,000.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act establishing the "Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission," performance measures for municipalities, and the Municipal Efficiency Promotion Aid Program, amending and supplementing P.L.1995, c.247, and making an appropriation.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.  (New section)  The Legislature finds and declares:

     a.  The State of New Jersey currently has 566 municipalities, 616 school districts, and 186 fire districts, each with its own layers of local bureaucracy that contribute to the high property tax burden suffered by New Jersey residents.

     b.  Consolidating local units, structurally and administratively streamlining county and municipal government, and transferring services to the most appropriate level of government for delivery would help to alleviate the property tax crisis by reducing the administrative costs of local government and making the delivery of local services more efficient due to economies of scale.

     c.  Due to legal obstacles, conflicting interests, and local concerns about sacrificing community identity, current laws permitting consolidation of municipalities and sharing of services between local units are seldom used.

     d.  Tough political decisions are often most expeditiously made through the use of bipartisan commissions, as demonstrated by the success of the federal base realignment and closure (BRAC) procedure.

     e.  Municipalities and other taxing districts are creatures of the Legislature; however, due to the pervasive notion of "home rule" and the political conflicts inherent in mandatory consolidation, it is necessary and proper to establish a bipartisan commission to fairly examine the allocation of responsibilities among local units in order to determine: (1) which level of government is best suited to deliver a given local government service, and (2) when consolidation will reduce the property tax burden for pairs or groups of local units, and to make those recommendations to the Legislature for approval by the affected voters in order to make a serious effort to reduce the number of municipalities and other local units in the State.

     f.  Consolidation and mandates for increased efficiency in the delivery of services are complimentary processes, as the former reduces the administrative costs of local government on an external level and the latter does so on an internal level.

     g.  Local governments must be trained to use performance measures for decision making, strategic planning, performance improvement, accountability, and communication, and rewarded for increased efficiencies that result from their use.

    

     2.  (New section)  For the purposes of this bill:

     “Commission” means the "Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission" established pursuant to section 3 of P.L.    , c.   (C.          ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     “Local unit” means a municipality, fire district, and any other taxing district, but shall not include a school district, regional school district, or county.

 

     3.  (New section)  a.  There is established, in but not of the Department of the Treasury, the "Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission."

     b.  The commission shall consist of nine voting members: the Commissioner of Community Affairs (or a designee) and the State Treasurer (or a designee), who shall both serve ex-officio; and seven public members, who shall have expertise in one or more local government subjects, such as planning, local finance, geography, taxation, or other relevant fields, and shall be appointed as follows: one member by the President of the Senate, one member by the Minority Leader of the Senate, one member by the Speaker of the General Assembly, one member by the Minority Leader of the General Assembly, two members by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, and one member by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  No appointee shall be an elected official of a local unit or county unless that person has significant experience in shared service initiatives and demonstrated success at having implemented such agreements at the local level.

     c.  Members of the commission shall serve without compensation, but shall be reimbursed for expenses actually incurred in the performance of their duties.

     d.  The members shall be appointed within 60 days following the effective date of this act.  The public members shall serve for terms of five years and until the appointment and qualification of a successor; except that in making the first appointments to the commission, one person shall be appointed to serve for one year, one for two years, one for three years, one for four years, and three for five years.  All public members shall serve until the appointment and qualification of their successor.  A public member may be reappointed.  Any vacancy in the membership of the commission shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment was made for the unexpired term only.

 

     4.  (New section)  a.  The "Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission" shall organize as soon as practicable after the appointment of its members and annually shall select a chair from among its members and a secretary, who need not be a member of the commission.  The commission shall appoint an executive director, for a renewable two-year term, who shall have expertise in one or more local government subjects, such as planning, local finance, geography, taxation, or other relevant fields.  The executive director shall appoint professional staff qualified by training and experience to serve the commission.  The executive director and professional staff shall serve at the commission's pleasure.

     b.  The commission may meet and hold hearings at the places it designates throughout the State.

 

     5.  (New section)  a.  (1) The commission shall study and report on the structure and functions of county and municipal government, including local taxing districts, their statutory bases, including the fiscal relationship between local governments, and the appropriate allocation of service delivery responsibilities from the standpoint of efficiency.

     (2) The commission shall recommend legislative changes which would encourage the more efficient operation of local government.  These changes may include the structural and administrative streamlining of county and municipal governments, including but not limited to, the transfer of functions from one level of government to another, and the use or establishment of regional service delivery entities.

     Within two years following the effective date of this act, the commission shall report its findings to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the General Assembly.

     b.  Based on this analysis, the commission shall develop criteria to serve as the basis for recommending the consolidation of specific municipalities, the merger of specific existing autonomous agencies into the parent municipal or county government, or the sharing of services between municipalities or municipalities and other public entities.  Recommendations for sharing services may result from a study focusing exclusively on the sharing of services or may result from a study examining potential consolidation.  Municipalities to be considered for consolidation shall be within the same county and shall also be situated within the same legislative district.

     The criteria to govern a study to examine consolidation or the sharing of services shall include, but need not be limited to:

     (1) a consideration of geographic factors, such as a shared boundary, or in the case of the recommended consolidation of more than two local units, that the consolidated local unit will have a contiguous boundary;

     (2) an analysis of the economic costs and benefits of consolidation or the sharing of services, as the case may be, including potential tax savings and reductions in government costs through economies of scale;

     (3) measures to ensure that costs and benefits of consolidation or service sharing are distributed equitably across the entire community; and

     (4) measures to safeguard the interests of communities in the municipalities for which consolidation is recommended.

     The commission shall give priority to local units that volunteer to be studied.

 

     6.  (New section)  a.  The "Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission" shall work in conjunction with the Local Finance Board and the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs.  To the extent possible, the commission shall be entitled to the assistance and services of the employees of any State department, board, bureau, commission, or agency, as it may require and as may be available to it for its purposes.

     b.  The commission shall be entitled to the cooperation of the officials and employees of every county and municipality as it may require.

     c.  The commission may incur traveling and other miscellaneous expenses necessary to perform its duties, within the limits of funds available to it for its purposes.

 

     7.  (New section)  a.  The "Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission" shall submit a report to the Governor and the Legislature no later than May 1st, 2008, and no later than May 1st, each year thereafter.  In the event that the commission proposes consolidation of local units or a shared services agreement, the commission shall include in the report a consolidation or shared services proposal.

     b.  (1) A consolidation or shared services proposal shall take effect at the end of a period of 60 calendar days after the date on which the proposal is transmitted to the Senate and General Assembly on a day on which both thereof shall be meeting in the course of a regular or special session unless, between the date of transmittal and the end of the 60-day period, the Legislature passes a concurrent resolution stating in substance that the Legislature does not favor the consolidation proposal.

     (2) Under provisions contained in a consolidation or shared services proposal, a provision of the proposal may be effective at a time later than the date on which the proposal otherwise is effective.

     (3) A consolidation or shared services proposal that is not disapproved in the manner provided by paragraph (1) of this subsection shall have the force and effect of law and the Secretary of State shall cause the same to be printed and published in the annual edition of the pamphlet laws under a heading of "Consolidation Proposals" or “Shared Services Proposals,” as the case may be.

     8.  (New section)  a.  Upon the taking effect of a consolidation or shared services proposal pursuant to subsection b. of section 7 of P.L.    , c.    (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), each recommendation included therein shall be put before the affected voters at the next general election and shall become effective only upon its adoption by a majority of the voters of each affected municipality.

     b.  In order to effectuate the provisions of subsection a. of this section, the Secretary of State shall forward to the clerk of each county in which the affected local units are located a public question to be included on the ballots at the next general election for the election districts encompassing those affected local units.

     (1)  The question with respect to consolidation shall read as follows:

 

     "Shall (insert the names of the participating local units) be consolidated into a single local unit to be known as (insert the name proposed for the consolidated local unit)?”

 

     (2)  The question with respect to shared services shall read as follows:

 

     "Shall (insert the services to be shared) be jointly undertaken with (insert the name of the entity with which sharing is to occur)?”

 

     c.  The consolidation of pairs or groups of local units recommended for consolidation under subsection a. of this section shall be accomplished within 12 months following the voter approval of the consolidation recommendation.

     d.  The adoption of a form of government, the election of officers, the apportionment of debts, and other issues between pairs or groups of municipalities required to consolidate pursuant to an approved consolidation recommendation under subsection c. of this section shall be determined, as far as practicable, in accordance with the procedures set forth in the "Municipal Consolidation Act," P.L.1977, c.435 (C.40:43-66.35 et seq.).

     e.  For a period of 10 years from the consolidation of a pair or group of municipalities pursuant to a consolidation recommendation approved under subsection c. of this section, and notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the residents of those municipalities shall not have the right to secede to form a new municipality, or to consolidate with or annex themselves to any other municipality.

 

     9.  (New section)  a.  Within 12 months of the effective date of this act, the Local Finance Board shall promulgate rules and regulations establishing performance measures to promote cost savings in the delivery of services by municipal governments.  In developing these measurements, the board shall take into account differing size, demographic, and geographic characteristics of municipalities that may have an impact on the demand for, and delivery of, specific services. In addition, these rules and regulations shall include consideration of the measurement process, identification of performance indicators, and design of data collection forms in order to assure consistency of information.  In promulgating efficiency benchmarks, the Local Finance Board shall also include a training module for key municipal staff in order to facilitate the institutionalization of performance measurement.

     b.  The Commissioner of Community Affairs shall be authorized to finance the development of the performance measures and training modules promulgated pursuant to subsection a. of this section by using funds from the Regional Efficiency Development Incentive Program (REDI) and the Regional Efficiency Aid Program (REAP).

     c.  Following the promulgation of the performance measures and training modules pursuant to subsection a. of this section, every municipality shall submit an annual performance report to the Local Finance Board setting forth an assessment of its performance of local government services.  Each report also shall be posted on the municipality’s official web site.  The board shall provide that reporting of performance measurement data to the board shall be done through electronic submission over the Internet.

     Funding for the costs of development of performance measures, training programs, and the implementation of the reporting system shall be appropriated from the “Sharing Available Resources Efficiently” account within the Property Tax Relief Fund.

     d.  Within two years of adopting rules implementing performance measures, the Local Finance Board shall develop a municipal report card, indicating a municipality’s performance relative to efficiency standards, and how its efficiency changes over time.

 

     10.  Section 1 of P.L.1995, c.247 (C.52:27D-181.1) is amended to read as follows:

     1.  There shall be appropriated annually by the Legislature for each State fiscal year an amount not less than [$33,000,000] $34,825,000 for the [Legislative Initiative] Municipal Efficiency Promotion [Block Grant] Aid Program.  [The] Prior to the adoption of rules and regulations by the Local Finance Board pursuant to section 9 of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the amount appropriated shall be distributed to municipalities on or before September 1 of the State fiscal year in proportion to the number of residents of each municipality as determined pursuant to the most recent federal decennial census.  In the second year following the adoption of regulations by the Local Finance Board pursuant to section 9  of P.L.    , c.   (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), amounts appropriated to municipalities shall be distributed as aid to reward those municipalities that meet the performance measures promulgated by the board.  The payment of [Legislative Initiative] Municipal Efficiency Promotion [Block Grant] Aid Program aid shall be used solely and exclusively by each municipality for the purpose of reducing the amount the municipality is required to raise by local property tax levy for municipal purposes.  If the amount of the payment exceeds the amount required to be raised by local property tax levy for municipal purposes, the balance of the payment shall be used to reduce the amount the municipality is required to collect for county purposes, notwithstanding the provisions of this or any other law to the contrary.  The Local Finance Board shall certify annually that each municipality has complied with the requirements set forth herein.

(cf: P.L.1995, c.247, s.1)

 

     11.  There is appropriated from the General Fund to the Department of the Treasury the sum of $95,000 to effectuate the purposes of sections 2 through 6 of this act.

 

     12.  This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill establishes three measures to promote efficiencies in local government.  The bill establishes a "Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission."  It would be the duty of the commission to develop a proposal to effectuate the consolidation of, and sharing of services among, pairs or groups of municipalities, fire districts, and other taxing districts in the State.  The commission would consist of nine members, including two ex officio members and seven public members with expertise in various local government fields.

     The bill also requires the Local Finance Board to promulgate rules and regulations establishing performance measures to promote cost savings in the delivery of services by municipal governments. In developing these measurements, the board shall take into account differing size, demographic, and geographic characteristics of municipalities that may have an impact on the demand for, and delivery of, specific services.  In addition, these rules and regulations shall include consideration of the measurement process, identification of performance indicators, and design of data collection forms in order to assure consistency of information.  In promulgating efficiency benchmarks, the Local Finance Board shall also include a training module for key municipal staff in order to facilitate the institutionalization of performance measurement.

     The Commissioner of Community Affairs shall be authorized to finance the development of these performance measures and training modules using funds from the Regional Efficiency Development Incentive Program (REDI) and the Regional Efficiency Aid Program (REAP).

     Following the promulgation of these performance measures and training modules, every municipality shall submit an annual performance report to the Local Finance Board, which sets forth an assessment of its performance of local government services.  Each report shall also be posted on the municipality’s official web site.

     Within two years of the effective date of this act, the Local Finance Board shall develop a municipal report card, indicating a municipality’s performance relative to efficiency standards and how its efficiency changes over time.

     Finally, the bill creates the Municipal Efficiency Promotion Aid Program to reward municipalities that meet State-established performance measures to promote cost savings in the delivery of services by municipal governments.  This bill authorizes the Local Finance Board to adopt rules and regulations establishing and governing the performance measures to be employed by municipal governments in order to promote cost savings in the delivery of services.  In addition, the board also is required to develop a training module for key municipal staff in order to facilitate the institutionalization of performance measurement.