Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo support Governor Chris Christie’s “tool kit” legislation package to provide counties and municipalities more control over costs.
The county executive urged state lawmakers to pass legislation “as quickly as possible” so counties and municipalities can benefit from budget reforms as they prepare their 2011 budgets.
“Essex County has one of the highest unemployment rates, the highest number of foreclosures and the highest property taxes,” DiVincenzo said in a release. “Wherever I go, our residents are telling me they can’t afford annual property tax increases that are so high and are finding it more and more difficult to live in Essex County and New Jersey. The State Legislature can’t continue to drag their feet and delay discussion and passage of these much-needed reforms. The Governor presented these initiatives earlier this year and our representatives have had all summer to debate. Enough is enough. Let’s cut the politicking and support the Governor’s reform package so our residents can get some relief from the high cost of government.
“We are putting together our 2011 budget and things don’t look so good. Our preliminary figures show a $75 million gap created primarily by rising health insurance and pension costs. Essex County is going to be in a serious situation if the Tool Kit reforms are not approved,” DiVincenzo said. “We need to eliminate bureaucracy and have more flexibility with our staff so government can be operated more efficiently,” he added.
DiVincenzo also said he believes reform is needed is the state’s binding arbitration process in contract negotiations.
The executive and political power broker said the current arbitration guidelines do not take into account a government agency’s ability to pay for large settlements or the unique economic factors with which they are affected. Instead, he said in the release, “arbitrators award large increases that are based on what other similar sized agencies are receiving. DiVincenzo pointed out that while his budget will be subjected to a 2 percent cap next year, an arbitrator recently awarded PBA Local 183 a three-year contract with an 8.1 percent salary increase over the three years. Essex County is appealing that decision. The Executive proposed that binding arbitration awards also be capped at 2 percent.”