DLGS chief gives muni officials some tough love

NEW BRUNSWICK – Division of Local Government Services director Tom Neff said the state is beginning to get on track, having dealt with the big issues that lead to the state’s longstanding fiscal problems.

However, the new normal that has existed for towns in recent years with shrunken state aid and smaller government is unlikely to change anytime soon.

He gave many municipal officials gathered for an economic summit at Rutgers University some straight talk regarding help from the states.

“There’s not going to be large increases in state aid (in the future),” he said during a speech at the state League of Municipalities Educational Foundation economic summit. “It’s just not reality.”

The amount of state aid given to municipalities for Fiscal Year 2013 is mostly the same  as the prior fiscal year.

Neff took a shot at “lawmakers” who told municipal officials they were going to work on returning energy tax receipts back to them, instead of the state having control of them.

“It really isn’t happening.”

The League of Municipalities lobbied hard for those funds to be returned to towns, in the name of property tax relief. And Democratic lawmakers sponsored a bill calling for such. However, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill.

Neff said when “push came to shove, they delayed the promise,” saying they would fight for it next year.

“If you believe them, I have a bridge to sell you,” he told the crowd.

Neff credited Christie and legislative leaders for trying to address the state’s structural problems and for the fact they “have not had their head in the sand,” as their predecessors did.

The DLGS director disagreed with Professor Raphael Caprio of the Bloustein School who said towns can expect to go through another “economic tsunami” in a few years that could affect their workforce and services they provide.

“The tsunami hit last year,” he said.  DLGS chief gives muni officials some tough love