Accounting for Uniform Construction Code Enforcement Fees

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correct size blogOn August 11 the Division of Local Government Services issued Local Finance Notice 2017-15 jointly with the Division of Codes and Standards to remind municipalities of statutory fee limitations and how construction code fees must be accounted and budgeted.  According to the notice, the Division issued it into the response to “instances where municipal construction code enforcement offices are consistently earning revenue well in excess of the offices’ operating costs.”

N.J.S.A. 52:27d-126a requires the municipality, by ordinance, to set enforcing agency fees for plan review, construction permit, certificate of occupancy, demolition permit, moving of building permit, elevator permit, and sign permit, in accordance with standards established by DCA.  However, those fees cannot exceed the annual costs for the operation of the construction office.  By regulation (N.J.A.C. 5:23-4.17(c)), the fees must be calculated to reasonably cover the municipal costs of enforcing the regulations to ensure that construction code revenue is used only for construction code enforcement purposes and by the means to make revenue available year to year.  The regulations further define which costs can be covered.  They include salary and employment benefits; cost of motor vehicle used for enforcement; direct costs in support such as equipment, supplies, furniture, maintenance of equipment, printing, safety equipment; professional expenses; fees for contracted private on-site inspection agencies; documented legal costs in connection with construction code enforcement litigation; annual audit fees; and indirect overhead, and other expenses of the municipality in support of the enforcing agency. Indirect and overhead expenses cannot exceed 12% of all other costs of the construction office unless the indirect and overhead expense of the municipality exceeds 12% of the municipal budget.  Then indirect and overhead construction office cost can be increased in proportion to the municipal budget’s overall indirect and overhead expenses.

If construction code enforcement is provided by a shared service agreement, one uniformed fee schedule must be applied by all parties of the agreement.  The lead agency is responsible for collecting the fees with no additional fee required to be paid by an applicant to any municipality or county.  If construction code enforcement is provided by a private on-site inspection and plan review agency the fees cannot exceed the contracted amount the municipality pays to the third party vendor, except to cover additional overhead and other operational cost incurred by the municipality.

Municipalities have two options on how to dedicate any revenues earned from the construction code enforcement fees.  The first is to state the fee revenues in a separate section of the municipal budget together with appropriations for the purposes to which such revenues are applicable; with the total of anticipated revenues equaling the total appropriations.  When using this method, the current year revenue cannot exceed the prior year realized revenue, with certain exceptions.  The second method is to dedicate the Uniformed Construction Code Enforcement fees using a “dedicated by rider.”  This method permits the accumulation of funds at a reasonable level to offset future code enforcement expense.

State regulation also requires that the appropriation and expenditures for the construction code fee revenues be tested annually as part of the municipal audit.   DCA will notify municipalities if they are required to perform further sample testing by March 1 for Calendar Year municipalities and September 1 for State Fiscal Year municipalities.  The outcome of such testing must be a separate opinion in an addendum to the annual Audit.

We suggest you review this notice along with the Local Finance Notice with your Chief Financial Officer, Construction Code Official, and Municipal Auditor.

Contact: Lori Buckelew, Senior Legislative Analyst, lbuckelew@njslom.org, 609-695-3481 x112.

 

Recent Court Decisions Impacting OPRA

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correct size blogTwo recent court decisions have been issued dealing with the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”).  The first case issued on August 3, 2017, is an Appellate Court decision concerning the ability of the Superior Court to issue civil penalties for the “knowingly and willful” violations of OPRA.  The second, a NJ Supreme Court case issued on August 7, 2017, deals with a question regarding a fire district and a volunteer fire company’s status as a public agency subject to OPRA.

You should review both of these cases with your municipal attorney for information on how these cases may impact you.

OPRA’s Civil Penalties

On August 3, 2017 the Appellate Division published its opinion in North Jersey Media Group Inc., d/b/a The Record v. State of New Jersey Office of the Governor. This case dealt with whether or not the Superior Court has the power to issue civil penalties under certain OPRA provisions or whether the authority to issue these civil penalties rests exclusively with the Government Records Council (“GRC”).

Due to some unclear language within the OPRA statute, the question was raised as to whether or not the Superior Court shared authority with the GRC to issue civil penalties for “knowingly and willful” violations of OPRA.  The State took the position that the statute allows for the civil penalty for an OPRA violation to be handed down only by the GRC, despite the aggrieved requestor having the option to bring a dispute before either the GRC or the Superior Court.  North Jersey Media Group (“NJMG”) countered that this interpretation of the statute was flawed.  In their view, it would make no sense for the civil penalty to be limited only to disputes brought before the GRC when the aggrieve requestor has the choice to bring the dispute in either venue.

The trial court agreed with the State, the Appellate Division, however, did not and ruled that both the Court and the GRC had the authority to hand down OPRA’s civil penalty and that a reading of the statute otherwise would frustrate the purpose of the penalty.

Defining a Public Agency Under OPRA – A Tale of an Instrumentality of an Instrumentality

On August 7, 2017, the NJ Supreme Court issued its opinion in Robert A. Verry v. Franklin Fire District No. 1 (A-77-15)(077495).  This case dealt with whether or not a fire district and a volunteer fire company that is part of that fire district are public agencies and therefore subject to the requirements of OPRA.  In a 5-2 decision, the Court ruled that the Fire District is a public agency and therefore subject to OPRA but that the volunteer fire department, which is part of the Fire District, is not a public agency and therefore not subject to OPRA.

This conclusion was reached after the Court found the fire district to be an instrumentality of a political subdivision and therefore subject to OPRA.  Further, the Court decided that the volunteer fire department, which is part of the Fire District, is only an instrumentality of an instrumentality and therefore not subject to OPRA.  The Court reasoned that the volunteer fire department is not subject to OPRA because only public agencies are subject to OPRA and the law does not define an instrumentality of an instrumentality as a public agency.

The reasoning for the decision is complicated and you may find the breakdown below helpful in following the Court’s reasoning.

Fire District = Instrumentality of Political Subdivision (municipality) = Public Agency = Subject to OPRA

Volunteer Fire Company = Instrumentality of Instrumentality (Fire District) = Not Public Agency = Not Subject to OPRA

While the Court ruled that the volunteer fire department, which is part of the Fire District, itself is not subject to OPRA it did rule that the fire district is, and because the district acts as the supervising agency of the department, the fire district “has certain responsibilities under OPRA to provide public access to records relating to that supervision.”  Therefore, any documents which are necessary for the district’s supervision of the volunteer department should be made available under OPRA via a request to the district, even though those records do not need to be made available through an OPRA request to the department.

For more information in connection to this blog click here.

Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, fmarshall@njslom.org or 609-695-3481 x137.

Governor Takes Action on Bills of Interest

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On August 7 Governor Christie took action on 51 bills.  Below is a summary of action taken on bills of municipal interest:

BILL SIGNINGS:

S-169/A-4329: Allows certain emergency squad volunteers holding municipal elective office to vote on emergency squad concerns.  Specifically for municipalities with a population below 5,000, an elected official would be required to recuse themselves from voting on a matter concerning a volunteer squad or company only if that elected official also serves as an officer, director, or trustee of the squad or company. P.L. 2017, c. 181, which the League supported, took effect on August 7, 2017.

S-678/A-1967: requires local government units to certify compliance with certain federal hiring requirements when filing annual budgets. Specifically, the governing body would be required to certify that the municipality’s hiring practices comply with the “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964”.  P.L. 2017, c. 183, which the League opposed as duplicative since this review is currently part of the audit process, took effect on August 7, 2017.

S-726/A-4460: extends full protection of Law Against Discrimination to persons having liability for service in Armed Forces of United States; guarantees equal employment opportunity in State contracting to all veterans. This law clarified the existing Law Against Discrimination to ensure that persons having liability for service in the Armed Forces of the Unites States are a protected class in the same regard as other protected classes.  A person having liability for service in the Armed Services is now held in the same esteem as other protected classes, such as; race, creed, color, national origin and others.  This law also allows for an expanded definition of affirmative action plans for public works contracts by removing the previous limitation for such programs to only “Vietnam era” veterans and expanding these programs to all veterans. P.L. 2017, c. 184 took effect on August 7, 2017.

S-1219/A-936: requires reporting of suspected abuse of institutionalized elderly to police and that facility employees receive notice of reporting requirement annually; designated as “Peggy’s Law.”  Originally introduced, the bill required anyone to, ‘immediately’, report suspected abuse to local law enforcement. That would have subjected any non-professional family member or friend visiting a nursing home to the penalty provisions of this law. The final bill allows, but does not require, such reporting.   P.L. 2017, c. 186, which the League supported as amended, took effect on August 7, 2017.

S-1497/A-3225: designates Killed in Action flag as an official State flag; mandates it be displayed at certain public buildings. The Killed in Action flag is a red flag which depicts the silhouette of a helmet on top of a firearm next to a service member.  The law requires that the Killed in Action be displayed at the principal municipal building in each municipality, county, and State House during normal business hours.  P.L. 2017, c. 188 took effect on August 7, 2017.

S-1731/A-2368: permits municipality to establish a civil penalty for smoking in public places.  The new law will permit a municipality to adopt an ordinance establishing a civil penalty of up to $200 for smoking in a public place where it is prohibited by the municipality or the owner or person responsible for the operation of a public place. Prior to the enactment of this statute, a violation of a ‘no smoking’ ordinance had to be a criminal petty disorderly persons offense, which carried a penalty of imprisonment for up to 30 days or a criminal fine of up to $200, or both. P.L. 2017, c.191, which the League supported, took effect on August 7, 2017.

S-1739/A-2167: establishes sexual assault training requirements for law enforcement officers.  All law enforcement officers would be required to attend training, to be developed by the Attorney General, every three years and the Attorney General would be responsible for ensuring completion of the training program by law enforcement officers Statewide. The Office of Legislative Services anticipated local costs to be minimal, given that some law enforcement agencies may already provide training on this topic and that the required training program could be incorporated into existing in-service continuing education schedules.  The League originally had opposed this bi1l, but amendments provided local law enforcement with more flexibility and eliminated the requirement that initial training for all officers is completed within 90 days. .P.L. 2017, c. 192 takes effect March 1, 2018.

S-2884/A-4484: declares that deed restrictions or agreements that prevent raising or constructing of a structure to certain flood elevation standards are unenforceable.  P.L. 2017, c. 199 took effect on August 7, 2017.

A-1185/S-2771: requires State Comptroller to report findings of audit compliance reviews.  Specifically, the State Comptroller will be required to report on the findings of any subsequent review to the Governor, Senate President and Assembly Speaker within 3 years of the initial audit.  The report must include the corrective or remedial action taken and the effect of such action.  P.L. 2017, c. 204 took effect on August 7, 2017.

A-1690/S-660: allows fire district elections to be moved to November; eliminates certain fire district budget referenda, and eliminates certain fire district capital purchase referenda.  P.L. 2017, c. 206 takes effect January 1, 2019.  For more on this bill please see our recent blog post.

A-3381: authorizes municipal volunteer programs for free removal of snow from certain residential properties occupied by seniors or disabled persons. Municipalities may establish a volunteer program for free snow and ice removal from the entrance ways, driveways, and abutting sidewalks of qualified residential properties.  If a municipality establishes such a program they are required to appoint a coordinator, who cannot receive compensation, to administer the program.   As introduced, this bill required municipalities to create these programs and raised a number of concerns about an unfunded mandate as well as liability concerns.    In response to the concerns raised by the League, the sponsor agreed to amend the bill to make it optional for municipalities.   P.L. 2017, c. 212 took effect on August 7, 2017.

A-3908/S-3021: establishes 9/11 Memorial Registry within the Division of Travel and Tourism.  The registry, which must be posted on the State’s website, will provide the location and condition of all 9/11 memorials in the State owned, operated, or maintained by a governmental entity. P.L. 2017, c. 216 took effect on August 7, 2017.

A-4673/S-3095: concerns assessment of buildings or structures on real property located in certain counties following material depreciation thereof.  This law changes the date for notice to the tax assessor for material depreciation for property owners in the Monmouth County Real Demonstration program.  Specifically, when such a depreciation of value of a building or structure occurs after October 1 and before May 1 of the following tax year, the tax assessor, upon notice of that material depreciation given by the property owner before May 3, must determine the value of the parcel of real property as of May first of the tax year, and assess the property according to that value, including an improvement value for the building or structure that reflects its prorated value as of January 1 for the number of days before depreciation, within the final tax list delivered to the county board of taxation on or before May 5 of that tax year.  P.L. 2017, c. 228, which the League supported, took effect on August 7, 2017.

Contacts:

 

 

 

New Law Permits Moving of Fire District Elections to November

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On August 7 Governor Christie signed into law A-1690/S-660, which allows fire district elections to be moved to November; eliminates certain fire district budget referenda, and eliminates certain fire district capital purchase referenda.  This new law (P.L. 2017, c. 206) takes effect on January 1, 2019.

The Board of Fire Commissioners will have the option of moving the annual Fire District election, by resolution, from February to the same day as the General Election.  Once the Board of Fire Commissioners moves the Fire District election it cannot be changed.  However, before the date can be changed the County Board of Elections must certify the election districts.

By January 30, 2019 the County Board of Elections must determine whether an annual Fire District election can be held at the General Election based on election district boundaries.  If it is determined that the election can take place during the General Election the County Board of Elections must send a certificate to the Fire District’s Board of Commissioners as well as the Governing Body of the municipality.  If it is determined that the election cannot be held during the General Election, the County Board of Elections must send a letter to the Fire District.  However, the County Board of Elections may revise or readjust the boundary lines of any election district and the Board of Fire Commissioners, if authorized by ordinance adopted by the municipality, may revise or readjust the boundary lines of any fire district, including by means of consolidation or subdividing districts, as necessary to align the fire district boundaries with the election district boundaries.   Please note that any proposed consolidation or subdivision must be approved by the Local Finance Board.  Also, the Fire District must notify the Division of Local Government Services of any boundary adjustments.

Petitions to run for Fire Commissioner will continue to be the same for the elections held in February.  For the General Election districts, candidates will need to file their petition, with the lesser of 10 signatures or 2% of the voters who voted in the last Fire District election, to the County Clerk before 4:00 p.m. on the last Monday in July.  A candidate who wishes to withdraw from the General Election must file written notice of withdrawal to with the County Clerk 70 days prior to the November election.

If the annual election is moved to the General Election the term for the Fire Commissioner elected at the General Election will begin at 12 noon on the 1st Tuesday in December and will expire 3 years later at 12 noon the 1st Tuesday in December.  Any vacancy in membership is filled by the remaining members until the next succeeding General Election.  The person elected to fill the vacancy will be elected for the unexpired term.

The law also establishes two different budget adoption processes.  For Fire Districts with February elections, the voters must approve the annual Fire District’s budget.  For Fire Districts with the General Election voters only vote on the budget if the budget exceeds the 2% Property Tax levy cap.  The law does permit all Fire Districts to submit a public question to increase the levy greater than the 2% property tax levy cap at an election held the 3rd Saturday in February.

The law also amended the statute pertaining to the acquisition of property and equipment for fire districts; limitations; referendum for the issuance of bonds (N.J.S.A. 40A:14-85).  Specifically, the Board of Fire Commissioners can purchase a firehouse or other buildings, including but not limited to, administrative, communications, or training buildings, or buildings for the maintenance of fire apparatus in addition to the existing fire engines, apparatus, or other appliance for the extinguishment of fires and acquire lands or buildings or erect buildings for the housing of such equipment.  In addition, Fire Districts may use a lease-purchase agreement instead of a bond issue.

The Department of Community Affairs, in consultation with Division of Elections, has been given rulemaking authority to effectuate this law.

For more information in connection to this blog, click here. 

Contact:

 Lori Buckelew, Sr. Legislative Analyst, lbuckelew@njslom.org, 609-695-3481 x112.

 

Proposed Rulemaking

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town-crier_facebookWe would like to alert you to a few new rules and amendments being proposed by various state agencies.  The League is in the process of working with stakeholders in reviewing the proposed rules and will be providing an analysis of the potential municipal impact.  We encourage you to review these proposed rules and if you have any comments or concerns which you would like to bring to our attention please feel free to contact us.  After our review and with feedback from our members we anticipate submitting comments on these proposed rules and amendments.

N.J.A.C. 2:24-2.3(a), 2.4, 4.2, 5.1 (Proposed Amendments)N.J.A.C. 2:24-7 (Proposed New Rule) – Disease of Bees

  • The rules proposed by the State Board of Agriculture have not yet been published in the NJ Register but are available for review in their pre-publication form.  These rules seek to implement the Board’s exclusive authority to regulate beekeeping within the State.  Specifically, these rules seek to define certain industry terms and set standards governing the breeding and keeping of bees within the state.  These rules are of particular importance to municipalities as local units must adopt the rules by specific reference in order for the local unit to enforce them.

Repeals and New Rules, N.J.A.C. 5:30-9A.4 and 9A.6 / Amendments, N.J.A.C. 5:30-9A.1, 9A.2, 9A.3, 9A.5, and 9A.7 and 5:31-4.1 and 4.2 / Repeal, N.J.A.C. 5:30-9A.8     – Electronic Disbursements and Claimant Certification

  • The Local Finance Board seeks to expand the current use of procurement cards to include the authorized use of standard electronic funds transfer technologies.  The proposed new rules set forth standards which must be followed for the use of procurement cards and also requires municipalities and other entities to develope a policy for their use.

N.J.A.C. 5:30-18 – Employee Compensation Disclosure

  • With this new rule proposed by the Local Finance Board, the Board seeks to use its statutory authority to implement a 2007 law and create an employee compensation disclosure form to be used when a municipality seeks to ratify a collectively negotiated agreement or an individual employment contact.  The purpose of the form is to provide a comparison of the employee’s salary, year over year in order to keep the public better informed of salary decisions.

N.J.A.C. 5:33-1.1 – Electronic Tax Lien Sales

  • The Division of Local Government Services has proposed new rules concerning the electronic sale of delinquent tax liens and municipal charges.  The proposed rule seeks to expand the current pilot program and includes some changes to the procedures and parameters currently in place for the sale of these liens via the internet.

Amendments, N.J.A.C. 16:41C – Roadside Sign Control and Outdoor Advertising

The Department of Transportation seeks to amend the rules concerning outdoor advertisement.  The proposed amendments would put limitations on the types and manner in which signs could appear bike share stations.  The proposed amendment would include charging a permitting fee to municipalities before the posting of a sign on a bike share station.

Contacts: 

 

Supreme Court Issues Opinion on Declaratory Judgments and Privacy Concerns in Regards to OPRA

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town-crier_facebookOn August 3, 2017 the NJ Supreme Court issued its opinion on, In the Matter of New Jersey State Fireman’s Association Obligation to Provide Relief Applications Under the Open Public Records Act (A-68-15)(077097).  This case involved the Fireman’s Association request to the court for a declaratory judgment regarding the Association’s obligation to provide certain documents under an OPRA request.

The Court ruled that under the Declaratory Judgment Act (“DJA”) after a public entity denies a request for records under an OPRA, the public entity could not seek a declaratory judgment affirming the denial.  The Court reasoned that there was no active controversy once a public entity makes the decision to deny the OPRA request and under the DJA an active controversy is required in order to obtain a declaratory judgment.

The Court’s reasoning then begs the question – can a public entity seek a pre-denial declaratory judgment for an unsettled issue?  To this, the Court succinctly answers, “We do not reach the question of whether a public entity may file a pre-denial declaratory judgment action when confronted with an unsettled question that has not been litigated before and that implicates OPRA’s privacy prong, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.”  In a concurring opinion, which has no precedential value, Justice Albin took the additional step to say that under no circumstance, pre-denial or otherwise, should a public entity by able to receive a declaratory judgment when OPRA concerns are involved.

In the League’s view, the downside to not allowing declaratory judgments on unclear OPRA issues is that public entities are then at the will of the aggrieved requestor to decide whether or not to seek further clarification from the courts or the Government Records Council.  More importantly, should clarification after a denial of a request be sought the public entity is put at risk of needing to pay for the attorney fees for the aggrieved requestor.  The public entity would be responsible for attorney fees even if the denial of a request was due to ambiguity in the OPRA law while the entity sought to protect citizen privacy.

The positive take away from the case is that the Court recognizes the two key competing interests found in OPRA – disclosure, and protection of privacy interest.  In a somewhat rare move, the Court took the opportunity to overturn the Appellate Divisions decision to require disclosure of financial relief checks rather than remand the issue back down for further review.   In this case, the Court ruled that because of public policy reasons the citizen privacy concerns outweigh the need for disclosure of certain sensitive financial documents and therefore the nondisclosure by the Fireman’s Association was proper.  The Court ruled on the side of privacy in regards to both the OPRA requests and the request under the common law.  The Court did this using the existing factor tests outlined in Burnett v. County of Bergen for OPRA and Loigman v. Kimmelman for the common law right to know.

Overall the League sees this ruling as a step in the right direction after a slew of OPRA rulings seemingly eroded citizens’ reasonable expectation of privacy.  Additionally, this ruling addresses certain public policy concerns where circumstance may arise where a citizen could be hesitant to seek assistance from public entities, out of fear of their information being subject to disclosure either under OPRA or the common law.  The League sees this as a signal from the Court to the lower courts, that privacy interests should be more carefully considered when ruling on issues of disclosure.

Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, fmarshall@njslom.org or 609-695-3481 x137.

NJ Supreme Court Ruling Leaves “Dynamic Status Quo” in Limbo

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town-crier_facebookOn August 2, 2017, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued its opinion on, In the Matter of County of Atlantic; In the Matter of Township of Bridgewater (077447) (A-98/99/100-15), a case in which the League participated in as amicus.  This case deals with collective negotiation agreements (“CNA”) and more specifically the continuation of certain contractual terms within the CNA after the expiration of the agreement under the dynamic status quo doctrine.

To better understand the issue and its impact a short explanation of the dynamic status quo doctrine and its implications on CNA’s may be needed.  The dynamic status quo doctrine comes into play when a public employer’s CNA with an employee group has expired.  The doctrine holds that the employer cannot unilaterally alter the terms and conditions of employment of the old CNA even after its expiration, while negotiations are ongoing for a new CNA.  In other words, things would operate under the status quo, hence the name.  This doctrine was created through Public Employment Relation Commission (“PERC”) rulings and meant that if any party, during negotiations for a new CNA, attempted to alter any terms and conditions of employment under an expired CNA then that party would be committing an unfair labor practice.

The practical reasoning for the doctrine is that it would keep negotiations fair by not putting added pressures on either party to come to an agreement.  When the doctrine was first developed it made sense and worked well for all parties at the negotiation table.  However, substantial legislative and labor practice changes since the development of the doctrine put its practicality into question and may actually be causing an imbalance in negotiations.

This recent case involved incremental pay increase during a period of negotiation between an expired CNA and a new one.  The local governments involved did not want to continue to make the incremental increases in pay to their law enforcement personnel during this time.  But the unions for those personnel argued that based on the dynamic status quo doctrine, the local governments were required to follow the incremental pay increases as scheduled in the expired CNA.

The case began with PERC’s decision which found that the dynamic status quo doctrine was impractical and burdensome in light of economic conditions and legislative changes since the recession.  Among those legislative changes considered by PERC were the 2% Property Tax Levy Cap and the 2% Interest Arbitration Cap.  Deviating from the status quo doctrine, PERC ruled that the local governments did not need to honor the step increment pay increases as outlined in the expiring CNA during negotiations for a new CNA.

The unions then appealed PERC’s decision to the courts and the Appellate Division determined that PERC could not abandon the dynamic status quo doctrine, which it had adopted years ago as an act of policymaking.  Additionally, the Appellate Division found that neither the property tax cap nor the interest arbitration cap preempted the status quo doctrine, nor did it govern negotiated contracts.  The Appellate Division thus overruled the PERC decisions and found that, because of the status quo doctrine, the local governments must continue to honor the incremental pay increases as found in the expired CNA.

After the Appellate Division’s ruling, the local governments involved appealed the decision to the NJ Supreme Court.  The Court agreed with the Appellate Division judgment that the local governments should have made the incremental pay increases as outlined in the expired CNA during the negotiation period, but did not make their judgment based on the dynamic status quo doctrine.  Instead, the Court relied on contract theory to determine that the local governments should have made the incremental pay increase and thus avoided addressing the issue of PERC’s application of the dynamic status quo doctrine.

The Court’s reliance on contract theory to reach the outcome leaves the use of the dynamic status quo doctrine still in question.  As the Court clarified, salary step increments are a mandatorily negotiable term and condition of employment and suggested that “parties would be wise to include explicit language indicating whether a salary guide will continue beyond the contract’s expiration date.”  So, while it may be too late for those municipalities with current CNAs which contain such language this issue should be remembered when negotiating future contracts.

By failing to address the issue surrounding the dynamic status quo doctrine, the question remains whether or not incremental pay increases must continue during the negotiation period for contracts which do not explicitly state that the terms and conditions of the expired CNA will continue.  This perhaps is an issue which will be taken up in future cases and could potentially be the death knell for the dynamic status quo doctrine.

Contact:  Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, fmarshall@njslom.org or 609-695-3481 x 137.

“Best Practices” Checklist Issued

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town-crier_facebookOn August 1, the Division of Local Government Services issued the CY 2017/SFY 2018 Best Practices Checklist.  Local Finance Notice 2017-14 provides guidance on this year’s process.  Calendar Year municipalities must submit their Best Practices checklist by Friday, October 20, 2017.  State Fiscal Year municipalities will have until Friday, April 6, 2018. 

This year’s Best Practices Checklist consists of 25 questions that have all been asked in prior years’ Best Practices checklist.  As a result, most questions require “yes” or “no” answers, with limited “not applicable” answers.  Prospective answers are no longer permitted, however, most questions are curable prior to the submission deadline.  

 The minimum acceptable score is 21 out of 25.  Otherwise a percentage of your final aid payment will be withheld as follows:

 16-20 questions = 25% of final CMPTRA and ETR payment withheld

11-15 questions = 50% of final CMPTRA and ETR payment withheld

 6-10 questions = 75% of final CMPTRA and ETR payment withheld

 0-5 questions = 100% of final CMPTRA and ETR payment withheld

As in previous years, the completed Best Practices Checklist must be an agenda item for discussion at a municipal governing body meeting.  The Chief Administrative Officer, the Chief Financial Officer, and Municipal Clerk must certify the Best Practice Checklist. 

 Municipalities may submit appeals before the submission deadline, but after their Best Practices Checklist has been submitted to the Division.  The Division encourages that appeals be submitted in conjunction with the Best Practices Checklist submission.  Appeals to the Director must be submitted no later than the close of business Friday, October 20, 2017 for calendar year municipalities.

 Contacts: 

Jon Moran, Sr. Legislative Analyst at 609-695-3481 x121, jmoran@njslom.org or
Lori Buckelew, Sr. Legislative Analyst at 609-695-3481 x112,
lbuckelew@njslom.org

Federal Budget for the US Department of Transportation

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Federal Budget for the US Department of Transportation

The budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation came in at $17.8 billion in discretionary funding, which is a $646 million decrease from FY17 but $1.5 billion more than President Trump’s proposed budget.

Within that, two major concerns for municipalities have emerged – the elimination of the popular Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program and the rollback of the Transit New Starts program. Like the President’s budget, Congress zeros out the $500 million in TIGER grant program that provides grants to states and local communities for innovative infrastructure projects.

The House bill provides $1.75 billion for the New Starts program – $660 million less than last year but $521 million more than requested by the President’s budget. Based on these funding level changes and directions in the bill, New Starts would ironically no longer be able to start new projects yet still able to fulfill its existing obligations to current projects.

The following chart compares funding for key municipal programs in the current (FY ’17) Budget along with funding requests in the President’s proposal, as well as funding authorized in the bills approved by the House Appropriations Committee:

Program FY’17 Budget President’s Proposal FY’18 House Bill
TIGER program $500 million Eliminated Eliminated

 

Amtrak $1.4 billion Eliminates $630 million from long distance Amtrak routes. $1.4 billion
Transit New Starts $2.41 billion $1.4 billion $1.75 billion

Contacts:

  • Michael Cerra, Assistant Executive Director, mcerra@njslom.org, 609-695-3481 x120;
  • Jon Moran, Senior Legislative Analyst, jmoran@njslom.org 609-695-3481 x121;