August 27, 2012 - Christie Administration Issues 2012 Best Practices Inventory for Municipal Governments
CHRISTIE AMINISTRATION ISSUES 2012 BEST PRACTICES INVENTORY
Annual Checklist Ensures that Municipalities Embrace Practices that Stabilize Property Taxes
TRENTON, N.J. – The Christie Administration today issued the 2012 Best Practices Inventory to the state’s 565 municipalities to ensure more efficient, transparent and responsible use of taxpayer dollars by local governments. Now in its third consecutive year, the Best Practices Inventory released today contains a mix of new and repeat questions, all of which are aimed at encouraging local governments to budget within their means and eliminate waste, abuse and fraud.
“The Best Practices Inventory complements the historic property tax cap, binding arbitration reforms, and pension and benefits reforms that I previously signed into law to advance my Administration’s property tax reform agenda. The checklist requires local government officials to critically examine how they spend taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. Also, because questionnaire responses are made public, the Inventory holds local officials accountable for those times when they fail to judiciously appropriate money entrusted to them,” said Governor Chris Christie. “While reforms to control property taxes and reduce local government spending are producing results, more work is needed which is why I have been pushing the Legislature to enact strict prohibitions against public employees cashing out unused sick and vacation time, to reform the costly, burdensome and antiquated civil service system, and to eliminate barriers that impede towns from sharing services, consolidating functions and otherwise achieving efficiencies.”
The Best Practices Initiative was authorized through the Fiscal Year 2013 State Budget enacted in June. It is designed to provide standards by which local government officials can assess how they are conducting business, compare those practices against other municipalities, and find new, cost-effective ways of providing services.
The 2012 checklist contains 50 questions, with approximately 30 inquiries covering new issue areas.
In light of the State Comptroller’s July 2012 report on pension abuses by professional service providers, one new question requires the finance officer to verify that the municipality has removed independent contractors from receiving pension credit. Another new question ensures municipalities are conducting a monthly review of their health benefits to delete employees, spouses or dependents who should no longer be receiving coverage.
Responses are due by September 28 for municipalities that operate on a calendar year budget and April 1, 2013, for municipalities that operate on a fiscal year budget.
“This annual checklist has become an invaluable tool for municipal officials across the state to help curb property taxes,” said New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III. “Local government officials understand that adopting best practices helps them enhance government performance, which is the metric by which they are measured by constituents.”
Municipal governments need to meet an established percentage of the checklist items in order to receive all or part of their final state aid payment. In addition to allowing “yes” or “no” answers, for certain questions the Inventory allows the option of answering “not applicable” or that compliance will be “prospective.” Credit will be given for all “yes” answers, as well as answers of “not applicable” where “not applicable” is appropriate based on a written explanation. Answers of “prospective” will be credited where the question is not a repeat from the 2011 Inventory. The DCA will actively review completed Inventories and may withhold credit if requisite good faith efforts to comply are not apparent.
Aside from the Best Practices Inventory, the Christie Administration has worked diligently with the Legislature on efforts to limit property tax increases. Achievements include enacting a 2 percent cap with limited exceptions on county, municipal and school district property tax levy increases, reducing local government pension bills by approximately $200 million annually, bringing public sector employees’ health benefits cost sharing more closely in line with those in the private sector thereby saving taxpayers money, and reforming the public sector interest arbitration system to prohibit significant public sector salary increases awarded through arbitration and requiring arbitrators to consider the impact of their decisions on the local property tax levy when considering public employee salary increases.
A copy of the Best Practices Inventory is available at http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dlgs/programs/best_practices.html on the DCA website. A copy of the Local Finance Notice, which discusses Best Practices, can be found at http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dlgs/lfns/12/2012-18.pdf on the DCA website.