NJ Mayors To State Lawmakers: Your Actions Have Consequences [AUDIO]
New Jersey mayors tell the State Senate Budget Committee that when lawmakers in Trenton pass bills that force towns to do certain things it's the taxpayers who suffer if the state doesn't fund its mandates.
Deptford Township mayor, Paul Mednay says, "Anything that the legislature passes with unintended consequences has a dollar attached to it."
Medany says everyone knows about big-ticket items like affordable housing requirements and insurance costs, but there are other, little-known unfunded mandates that also drive up property taxes.
"There are some other ones that I don't hear much talk about that are cost-drivers for us," says Medany. "Workman's comp reform, tort reform, lawsuits, legal fees…..There are things that we need help with at the local level legislatively that we can't really control…….We're trying to maintaiun services for our residents and it's difficult."
Municipalities are also continuing to see an increase in tax appeals. In the State League of Municipalities 2011 Mayors Survey, 66% of the Mayors saw an increase in their residential tax appeals in 2011. Of those, 63% noted that the results of the tax appeals will impact their available surplus in their 2012 budget.
Another impact on municipal budgets is the cost associated with defending a municipality's compliance with the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). Only 15% of the Mayors noted that their municipality had appeared before the Government Records Council or Superior Court regarding OPRA. Of those municipalities, municipal attorney fees ranged from $1,300 to $10,000.
Medany says, "My township clerk probably works on OPRA at least once a day, maybe twice a week. That's 16 hours worth of her time."
The 2011 survey also indicates a changing trend in how municipalities plan to meet their affordable housing obligations. Nearly half of the Mayors noted that once a prospective housing obligation is determined their municipality will implement 100% municipal sponsored partnerships with non-profit sponsors housing to address part of their future obligation.