MEASURE ASKING VOTERS TO MAKE IT EASIER TO CUT PROPERTY TAXES BY SHARING MUNICIPAL COURTS ADVANCED BY ASSEMBLY PANEL

Wisniewski, Watson Coleman, Burzichelli, Lampitt, Greenwald Measure Would Be Placed on Ballot in November 2011

Legislation sponsored by Assembly members John Wisniewski, Bonnie Watson Coleman, John Burzichelli, Pamela Lampitt and Louis Greenwald asking voters in the November 2011 election to make it easier for municipalities to cut property taxes by sharing Municipal Court services was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (ACR-81) would amend the state Constitution to change how regional or shared Municipal Court judges are appointed in New Jersey to save taxpayers money.

“This is a great opportunity to remove a significant barrier to municipal service sharing and help create property tax relief by streamlining local government and cutting costs,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex).

“This change would simply make the law the same for single and regional courts, thus making it easier to create more efficient and inexpensive courts,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer).

Judges in a single-municipality Municipal Court are appointed by the mayor and council of that municipality, but the state Constitution requires judges of joint or regional courts to be appointed by the governor.

“As a practical matter, many towns choose not to share judges because the appointment process if far more cumbersome and time consuming. That’s why we have so few shared courts, even though they can help save money,” said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem).

“Having two methods for approving municipal judges promotes a costly, inefficient court system,” said Lampitt (D-Camden). “This legislation is a common-sense solution to streamline the process and save money for the property taxpayers who foot the bill for court services.”

“Changing this process was among the recommendations that came out of the Legislature’s historic 2006 special session on property tax reform as a cost-saving measure to help keep increases at bay,” said Greenwald (D-Camden).

Voters rejected the plan during the 2008 general election, but Wisniewski said he hopes more understanding of the law will lead to different results in 2011.

The bill was released 6-0 by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.