Best Practices questionnaire, checklist issued to municipalities

TRENTON – For the second straight year, the state is issuing to municipalities a questionnaire to help towns measure their progress in areas such as budget preparation, health insurance, public safety, and more.

The checklist of 50 questions seeks information on such items as whether towns have implemented pay-to-play laws, entered into shared-services agreements, or whether new public employee contracts hold raises to no more than an average of 2 percent annually.

“In these difficult fiscal circumstances, every level of government – local, county and state – must set budget priorities that are responsible, that focus on providing essential programs and services, and that don’t waste taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars,” Gov. Chris Christie said in a release.

“The Best Practices Initiative has proven to be an effective tool at getting local governments to budget within their means, improve their operations, and find ways to eliminate waste, abuse and fraud.”

This year, county governments will be asked to voluntarily fill out a modified version of the Best Practices Checklist, the governor’s office stated. Counties generally comprise a smaller portion of local tax bills than municipalities and school districts, but they are large, regional operating entities with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars and workforces numbering in the thousands, according to the governor’s office.

“While counties will not be penalized this year for choosing not to complete the survey, we are strongly encouraging them to use this opportunity to self-critique their operations and consider how other local governments are conducting business,” Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Lori Grifa said in a release.

Unlike counties, municipal governments will need to meet an established percentage of the checklist items in order to receive all or part of their final state aid payment, according to the release.

To view a full score sheet of each calendar year municipality and its Best Practices Checklist result for FY 2011, go to www.nj.gov/dca/lgs/bestpractice/2011_best_practices_model.pdf on the DCA website.

Best Practices questionnaire, checklist issued to municipalities