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Burzichelli, Muoio, Wimberly, Taliaferro & Quijano Bills to Improve Local Government Operations OK’d by Assembly

A five-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Burzichelli, Liz Muoio, Benjie Wimberly, Adam Taliaferro and Annette Quijano to facilitate operations at the local government level was approved by the General Assembly on Monday.

“The counties are responsible for a range of programs and services that improve the quality of life for families in New Jersey,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “By addressing issues that county-level officials have identified as barriers to order and efficiency, these bills ultimately will help our residents live better and see their tax dollars go further.”

The bills:

  • A-4768 (Burzichelli): Adds the superintendent of elections to the list of county entities and officials that may be subject to the annual requirements outlined in a county’s administrative code. The bill also would require the county board of freeholders to review and approve salaries of the superintendent’s appointees.

    Under current law, if a county has an administrative code, its strictures must be adhered to by the county board of taxation, board of elections, clerk, surrogate, jury commissioners and sheriff. This bill would add superintendent of elections to that list of entities.

    The bill passed both houses unanimously and now goes to the governor.

  • A-4769 (Burzichelli): Limits county entity budget authorities – namely county tax administrators, superintendents of election, boards of election, registers of deeds and mortgages, clerks, surrogates, prosecutors and sheriffs – preparing the portion of a county budget to be raised by property taxes to request a maximum of a 2 percent increase from the previous year’s budget request, or the cost of living adjustment, whichever is less.

    As counties currently may not increase their property tax levy by more than 2 percent per year, a local agency that submits an excessive budget may force the county to subtract, postpone or modify the budgets and activities of other agencies or county departments in order to accommodate a single agency. This results in conflict between boards of freeholders and the independent agencies that they are responsible to finance. The bill aims to resolve this conflict by imposing an across-the-board 2 percent cap on the aforementioned entities.

    The bill passed both houses unanimously and now goes to the governor.

  • A-4771 (Burzichelli/Muoio): Under current law, municipalities that enter into financial agreements with urban renewal entities under the “Long Term Tax Exemption Law” are not required to provide a copy of the agreement to the county. Under that law, however, the county is entitled to receive 5 percent of the annual service charge negotiated between a municipality and an urban renewal entity as a “payment in lieu of property tax.”

    The bill would require that the county treasurer and county counsel receive a copy of a financial agreement within 10 days of it adoption and require that amounts due to the county be paid on a quarterly basis.

    “At present, without copies of these agreements, counties have no means of determining what they’re owed, and consequently, they can’t collect the funds,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This bill would address a problem county treasurers often experience when preparing county budgets.”

    The bill passed both houses unanimously and now goes to the governor.

  • A-4772 (Burzichelli): Permits counties to impose a 1 percent hotel tax in addition to the current state hotel occupancy fee and sales tax and any municipal hotel taxes. The tax proceeds would be used to reduce the county property tax levy.

    The bill, which passed the Assembly 41-32-1 and the Senate 21-16, now goes to the governor.

  • A-4845/A-4868 (Wimberly/Burzichelli/Taliaferro/Quijano): Establishes the “Court Security Enhancement Fund,” financed by increasing court fees, assessments and penalties. Monies shall be used to supplement local government funding to enhance court security. The state treasurer would administer the fund and disburse money to local governments in the form of annual grants for the procurement of security equipment.

    Under the bill, a $2 court cost assessment would be added to the amount of each court cost assessed in municipal court for any violation of any statute or ordinance. In addition, a court security fee of $25 would be imposed on any defendant found guilty of contempt in a domestic violence matter.

    A $25 court security fee would be imposed for each conviction of a crime, disorderly or petty disorderly person offense, or any juvenile adjudicated delinquent for an offense, which if committed by an adult would constitute a crime, disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense. An additional $25 court security fee assessment would be imposed on any participants in any supervisory treatment program (PTI), conditional discharge program or conditional dismissal program.

    With regard to court filing fees, the bill would add a $5 court security fee on any court filing fees in the Supreme Court, Superior Court and the Tax Court for each first paper filed and for each first paper filed by any person other than the plaintiff. A $5 court security fee would be added for each motion filed.

    “The local courthouse ought to be a secure environment for all parties involved,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Increasing these fees will help ensure order, decorum and overall safety in the courtroom.”

    “Courtrooms are public places that inherently are tense environments, so quality security is essential,” said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “This bill will help ensure that local courthouses have the resources they need to be safe.”

    “Our judicial process is a key element of this nation’s democracy,” said Quijano (D-Union). “In an effort to preserve the sanctity of that process, it’s important that we maintain the security of the courts.”

    The bill is estimated to garner approximately $19.2 million in revenue for the fund during its first full year of implementation.

    The measure passed the Assembly 44-27-4.