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On Monday, the Division of Local Government Services issued the CY 2016/SFY 2017 Best Practices Checklist.  Local Finance Notice 2016-13 provides guidance on this year’s process.  Calendar Year municipalities must submit their Best Practices checklist by Friday, October 21, 2016.  State Fiscal Year municipalities will have until Friday, April 7, 2017.

There have been some significant changes to this year’s Best Practices Checklist as a result of the Governor’s budget language changes to the SFY2017 State Budget (See August 11 blog post).  First, prospective questions are no longer permitted.  The questions are “yes” or “no” with limited “not applicable” answers.  Some questions will require additional information in the comment section.  It is important to note that “the majority of questions asked in this year’s Best Practices are also curable, meaning that compliance can be achieved prior to the submission deadline.”

Secondly, Director of the Division of Local Government Services was given the authority to determine not only the minimum acceptable score, which is 22 out of 30, but to withhold any or all of a municipality’s CMPTRA funding.    Unfortunately, at this time the amount of aid to be withheld is unknown as “the Division reserves the right to determine withholding percentages upon receiving all completed CY 2016 Best Practices Inventories”.   Meaning, it is open-end what penalties municipalities could receive if they do not achieve the necessary positive credit on 22 questions.

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 21, 2016 for calendar year municipalities.

We are concerned that the Best Practice Checklist continues to attempt to manage municipalities from Trenton without any consideration for home rule. For instance, there are questions that may require a municipality to expend limited funds to get a positive answer for a practice or action that is not necessarily needed in that municipality.

We are also troubled by the lack of disclosure of how much CMPTRA & Energy Tax Receipt funds are in jeopardy.  Without knowing how much aid can be withheld a municipality is unable to make an informed decision if it is fiscally feasible to implement a Best Practice.

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

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