Senator ROBERT M. GORDON
District 38 (Bergen)
Senator JAMES BEACH
District 6 (Camden)
Assemblywoman CONNIE WAGNER
District 38 (Bergen)
Assemblywoman VALERIE VAINIERI HUTTLE
District 37 (Bergen)
Assemblyman LOUIS D. GREENWALD
District 6 (Camden)
Assemblywoman PAMELA R. LAMPITT
District 6 (Camden)
Permits combination of voter petitions and application by municipal governing body for approval of Municipal Consolidation Study Commission by Local Finance Board.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning Municipal Consolidation Study Commissions and amending P.L.2007, c.63.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. Section 25 of P.L.2007, c.63 (C.40A:65-25) is amended to read as follows:
25. a. The Legislature finds and declares that in order to encourage municipalities to increase efficiency through municipal consolidation for the purpose of reducing expenses borne by their property taxpayers, more flexible options need to be available to the elected municipal officials and voters than are available through the "Municipal Consolidation Act," P.L.1977, c.435 (C.40:43-66.35 et al.).
b. (1) In lieu of the procedures set forth in the "Municipal Consolidation Act," P.L.1977, c.435 (C.40:43-66.35 et al.), the governing bodies from two or more contiguous municipalities may apply to the board for either:
(a) approval of a plan to consolidate their municipalities; or
(b) creation of a Municipal Consolidation Study Commission, as described in subsection c. of this section.
(2) A representative committee of registered voters from two or more contiguous municipalities may petition the board for the creation of a Municipal Consolidation Study Commission, as described in subsection c. of this section. The petition, to be sufficient, shall be signed by the registered and qualified voters of the municipalities in a number at least equal to 10% of the total votes cast in those municipalities at the last preceding general election at which members of the General Assembly were elected. The board shall also accept a combination of applications from local governing bodies, pursuant to subparagraph (b) of paragraph (1) of this subsection, and petitions from representative committees of registered voters, pursuant to this paragraph, from two or more contiguous municipalities, requesting the creation of a Municipal Consolidation Study Commission; however, if each municipality submits an application from its governing body, any proposed consolidation plan shall be approved by voter referendum in each of the municipalities.
(3) The board shall provide application forms and technical assistance to any governing bodies or voters desiring to apply to the board for approval of a consolidation plan or the creation of a Municipal Consolidation Study Commission.
(4) A consolidation commission established pursuant to P.L.1977, c.435 (C.40:43-66.35 et seq.) in the year prior to enactment of sections 1 to 37 of P.L.2007, c.63 (C.40A:65-1 et al.) may apply to the Local Finance Board for approval to use the provisions of section 25 through 29 of P.L.2007, c.63 (C.40A:65-25 through C.40A:65-29).
c. An application to create a Municipal Consolidation Study Commission shall propose a process to study the feasibility of consolidating the participating municipalities into a single new municipality or merging one into the other. The application shall include provisions for:
(1) the means of selection and qualifications of study commissioners;
(2) the timeframe for the study, which shall be no more than three years, along with key events and deadlines, including time for review of the report by State agencies, which review shall be no less than three months;
(3) whether a preliminary report shall be issued in addition to the final report;
(4) whether the development of a consolidation implementation plan will be a part of the study;
(5) the means for any proposed consolidation plan to be approved; either by voter referendum, by the governing bodies, or both; and
(6) if proposed by a representative group of voters, justification of that group's standing to serve as the community advocate for the consolidation proposal.
d. (1) An application to the board for consideration of a consolidation plan or to create a Municipal Consolidation Study Commission shall be subject to a public hearing within each municipality to be studied, and a joint public hearing in a place that is easily accessible to the residents of both or all of the municipalities.
(2) The public hearings shall be facilitated by the board and conducted in accordance with the provisions of the "Senator Byron M. Baer Open Public Meetings Act," P.L.1975, c.231 (C.10:4-6 et seq.).
(3) After approval of a plan by the board, it may be amended upon petition to the board by the applicant. Based on the nature of the amendment, the board may decide to hold a public hearing in any of the municipalities affected by the plan, or at a regular meeting, or both.
e. Every Municipal Consolidation Study Commission shall include a representative of the Department of Community Affairs as a non-voting representative on the commission. The representative shall not be a resident of a municipality participating in the study. The department shall prepare an objective fiscal study of the fiscal aspects of a consolidation and shall provide it to the commission in a timely manner.
f. If the consolidation would include the consolidation of boards of education, a person appointed by the Commissioner of Education shall serve as a non-voting member of that Municipal Consolidation Study Commission. The representative of the Commissioner of Education shall not be a resident of a community participating in the study. The county superintendent of schools shall conduct a study on the impact of consolidation on the educational system and its finances. The report shall be provided to the commission in a timely manner.
g. There shall be no more than one of either a consolidation plan study, a Municipal Consolidation Study Commission, or a joint municipal consolidation created under the "Municipal Consolidation Act," P.L.1977, c.435 (C.40:43-66.35 et al.), active in a single municipality at the same time. In the event that more than one application is filed with the board or is being considered by the governing bodies while another action affecting the same municipality or municipalities is under consideration, the board shall consider the applications and shall join any proposed creation of a joint municipal consolidation together and approve only one action as the board deems to be in the public interest. Prior to approving a single action, the board shall hold a public hearing permitting all parties to present testimony on the merits of their action in relation to the other proposals. Once an action is approved by the board, another action from the same combination of municipalities shall not be approved for at least five years.
h. In considering its decisions under sections 1 to 37 of P.L.2007, c.63 (C.40A:65-1 et al.), the Local Finance Board and any other State agency shall take into account local conditions, the reasonableness of proposed decisions, and the facilitation of the consolidation process in making decisions concerning consolidation.
(cf: P.L.2007, c.63, s.25)
2. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill would permit municipalities seeking to petition the Local Finance Board for the formation of a Municipal Consolidation Study Commission under the “Uniform Shared Services and Consolidation Act,” sections 1 through 35 of P.L.2007, c.63 (C.40A:65-1 through C.40A:65-35), to obtain board approval either through voter petition or application by a municipal governing body, in any combination. However, if each municipality submits an application by its governing body, any proposed consolidation plan must be approved by voter referendum in each of the municipalities. The bill ensures that the board will not reject an application for formation of a commission when, for example, one or more of the municipalities obtains approval by petition and one or more obtains approval by application of the municipal governing body.