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Sarlo Measure Would Give Municipalities Flexibility To Operate In COVID Crisis

Trenton – Local governments forced to contend with the disruptions imposed by the COVID-19 health crisis would be granted greater flexibility to manage public services under terms of legislation authored by Senator Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) that gained the approval of a Senate committee today.

“The COVID crisis and resulting shutdown has imposed severe disruptions on the lives of everyone and on the ability of local government to respond to the needs of their residents,” said Senator Sarlo, who also serves as mayor of Wood-Ridge. “They need flexibility so they can provide services that are even more urgent now. Local government has direct interaction with their citizens – they need the ability to operate as effectively as possible.”

The bill, S-2392, approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, would allow for adjusted requirements for various timeframes, deadlines, and notifications so that local government can respond to the emergent needs of their residents during public emergencies.

The flexibility would apply to property tax collections and payments, remote meetings, and extensions for various local government deadlines. It would extend a series of existing deadlines for a variety of fiscal actions that municipalities routinely make.

In addition, the bill would also:

  • authorize the Director of the Division of Local Government Services to permit municipalities to extend a grace period for quarterly property tax payments;
  • allow an extension of the 10-day interest-free grace period on payments period up to a maximum of 30 days;
  • extend the certification renewal periods for various county and municipal officers, including finance officers, qualified purchasing agents, municipal clerks, public works managers, tax collectors, and tax assessors;
  • authorize local public bodies to hold public meetings remotely by electronic means as long as reasonable public notice is made;
  • clarify that local governments could accept specific types of electronic payments.

The actions allowed by the legislation would apply only during declared emergencies, Senator Sarlo said.

The committee vote was 11-0-1.