Legislation Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Annette Quijano and Thomas Giblin sponsored to encourage property tax savings in school districts was released Monday by an Assembly committee.
The bill (A-2974) would, as part of a pilot program, permit five counties to establish a county-wide purchasing system to provide custodial or food services, or both, to school districts within the county. These counties would include Middlesex, Camden, Gloucester, Union and Passaic. These contracts would be awarded to contractors using the competitive contracting process.
If a county establishes a county-wide purchasing system and a school district in the county is currently using a private contractor for the service, the district will be required to participate in the county-wide contract.
“This will encourage savings in school districts through county-wide purchasing contracts, while maintaining fairness for employees impacted by those contracts,” said Mosquera (D-Gloucester/Camden). “With this legislation, counties would have enhanced bargaining power to negotiate better prices and services, and that’s a benefit to everyone, most notably the taxpayers.”
“County-wide systems could level the playing field, so that large vendors would no longer have significant advantages over small school districts,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “This should result in savings for the taxpayers, and that’s something we should always encourage.”
“We continue to battle the scourge of property taxes, especially since we’ve seen a net 20 property tax hike under Gov. Christie, and this is a new approach that should prove beneficial to property taxpayers,” said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “This is a well-thought out effort to promote savings and streamline government that could open up doors to expanded efforts in the future.”
“We need to always focus on finding savings for taxpayers, and this is an area where we should be successful and help everyone,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Encouraging countywide purchasing for services such as these is common sense and big win for taxpayers.”
“We need to modernize local government and find new approaches that will bring about much-needed savings,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “This plan protects our value public workers while encouraging savings for everyone, and that’s a good thing.”
Under the bill, a district that is using its own employees to provide custodial or food services will be required to participate in a county-wide contract if it determines to privatize the service.
Prior to participating in the county-wide contract, however, the district will be required to meet certain criteria, including holding a public hearing on the proposal to participate, providing a period during which the public will have the opportunity to submit comments on the proposal and providing written responses to the comments. A district in these circumstances will not be permitted to participate in the county-wide contract during the term of an existing collective bargaining agreement with employees who will be affected by the participation in the county-wide contract, and after the term of the agreement, the district may participate only after:
- Providing written notice to the majority representative of employees in each collective bargaining unit affected by participation in the county-wide contract and to the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission; and
- Offering the majority representative the opportunity to consult with the district to discuss the decision to participate in the county-wide contract and the opportunity to engage in negotiations over the impact of participation.
Each employee replaced or displaced as a result of the district’s participation in the county-wide contract would retain all previously acquired seniority and would have recall rights whenever the district’s participation in the county-wide contract terminates.
Any administrator whose position is eliminated due to a countywide purchasing system will receive terminal leave pay pursuant to the “Uniform Shared Services and Consolidation Act.”
The bill would also provide protection for food or custodial services employees employed on school district premises during a transition to employment by a successor contractor, which is defined in the bill as a contractor that has been awarded a food or custodial services contract. Under the provisions of the bill, a successor contractor must offer employment during a 90-day transition employment period to all service employees providing food or custodial services employed by the predecessor employer, whether that predecessor employer is a school district or another contractor providing food or custodial services for the school district.
The successor contractor is prohibited from discharging, without just cause, a retained employee during that transition period, and must perform a written performance evaluation for each retained employee at the end of the transition period.
Employees whose performance was satisfactory, must be offered continued employment by the successor contractor. This provision would apply in the case of participation in a county-wide contract for food or custodial services, in the case of a district privatizing these services, or in the case of a change from one private contractor to another private contractor for these services.
The bill was released by the Assembly Budget Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.