Christie Checklist Aimed at Helping Local Governments Keep Costs in Check

Noncompliance with checklist will affect the amount of state aid municipalities receive

As local officials were urging lawmakers to whittle back state mandates, the Governor’s office yesterday came out with a new directive aimed at local governments.

In a press release and a letter sent to municipalities, the administration provided municipal officials with a toolkit designed to keep costs under control for local governments. It is backed by a pretty big hammer: the amount of state aid they receive will be based on their compliance with the checklist.

Dubbed the Best Practices toolkit, Gov. Chris Christie touted the checklist as establishing a framework to review existing services and programs and setting budget priorities, a way to manage their budgets without raising property taxes. “The Best Practices initiative is an integral part of the reform I have proposed,’’ Christie said.

In a letter to mayors across the state, Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Lori Grifa notified municipalities that their level of participation and compliance with the Best Practices will determine the amount of aid received in their final state aid payment. “Each municipality will need to meet an established percentage of the checklist items in order for all or part of your last state aid payment to be released,’’ Grifa wrote.

Much of the checklist deals with trying to push local governments into sharing or consolidating services, but some reflect some of the complaints aired by local officials during a hearing before the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. They ranged from mandates to require local officials to take various courses to be certified to having to do redundant audits each year.

In her letter, Grifa noted that as part of completing the checklist, the local government’s Chief Financial Officer must certify compliance with the checklist no later than October 1, 2010.

Among the items on the checklist are questions asking whether the town conducts ethics training for employees; does it provide employment practice liability training for officials and managers, and whether it maintains an up-to-date municipal website, including information on budgets, local ordinances and information on bids and requests for proposals (RFPs).