Transitional Aid awarded to five towns

TRENTON – The Department of Community Affairs Commissioner (DCA) on Thursday awarded more than $6.6 million in Transitional Aid to five municipalities operating on a calendar year budget, as opposed to a fiscal year spending plan.

The towns receiving the aid, from the highest amount to the least, are Asbury Park ($3.5 million) in Monmouth County, Harrison ($1.95 million) in Hudson County, Penns Grove ($600,000) in Salem County, Plumsted ($300,000) in Ocean County and Maurice River ($265,000) in Cumberland County.

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TRENTON – The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) on Thursday awarded more than $6.6 million in Transitional Aid to five municipalities operating on a calendar year budget, as opposed to a fiscal year spending plan.

The towns receiving the aid, from the highest amount to the least, are Asbury Park ($3.5 million) in Monmouth County, Harrison ($1.95 million) in Hudson County, Penns Grove ($600,000) in Salem County, Plumsted ($300,000) in Ocean County and Maurice River ($265,000) in Cumberland County.

The aid helps financially struggling towns increase efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of their governments.

Municipalities receiving the aid must submit a plan for becoming self-sufficient within four years and must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in which they agree to state oversight.

“My administration is committed to assisting municipalities restore their fiscal integrity and self-sufficiency by partnering with them to implement responsible budgeting and spending practices,” Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement. “The fact that two more municipalities have stabilized their budgets and successfully left the Transitional Aid program is evidence that our approach is working and that more municipalities around the state are implementing the necessary reforms to stand on their own. This year’s awards will provide five municipalities with the tools, assistance, and continued oversight they need to deliver a more efficient and accountable government for their taxpayers.”

The two towns that “graduated” that Christie was referring to are Chesilhurst and Prospect Park.

The MOUs towns sign state that the DCA provides receiving towns 75 percent of the earmarked funds upon signing. The remaining 25 percent is paid after the MOU’s requirements are complied with and reforms are implemented.

The agreements limit non-essential expenditures, contracting and personnel actions; requires DCA approval for new hires and professional contracts; freezes promotions and transfers involving salary increases unless required by contractual obligations; prohibits funds for entertainment and most educational expenses; and requires discussions with DCA staff at least once per quarter to review the budget and fiscal progress.

Transitional Aid has been a lightening rod of an issue the past two budget cycles. Senate President Stephen  Sweeney (D-3) of Wednesday said last year that lawmakers who were opposed to Transitional Aid were putting residents to death, because it would result in cuts in police and fire departments in struggling cities.

Christie initially cut the bulk of the funds last year to $10 million, but later restored more than $100 million, after agreement was reached on oversight of the funds.  <–>

Transitional Aid awarded to five towns