Fair Lawn will retain all of its state aid this year after scoring satisfactory marks on the annual Department of Community Affairs-issued Best Practices Worksheet.
The worksheet, distributed to every municipality across the state, asks 50 "Yes" or "No" questions about the town's governmental practices. To avoid penalty and loss of state aid, a municipality must answer "Yes," "Prospective," or "Not Applicable" on more than 80 percent of the questions.
With 41 Yeses and 2 Not Applicables, the borough scored 43 out of 50, or 86% -- good enough to escape penalty.
“It’s very interesting that we’re ahead of the curve on a lot of this stuff," borough manager Tom Metzler said at the last council work session, where he was required to discuss the worksheet with council. "I’m happy to tell you.”
In April 2011, the most recent publicly available record of best practice results for the county, 19 of 70 Bergen municipalities were penalized for scoring below 80 percent and lost state aid. Fair Lawn also escaped penalty that year, scoring 87 percent on the 100-question worksheet.
The seven best practices not currently being followed by the borough are as follows:
- Fair Lawn does not require its elected officials to annually attend at least one course offered by the Rutgers Center for Government Services or League of Municipalities that discusses ethics, finance, labor relations, capital planning and shared services. Although the borough does not mandate that council members attend a government course, council members do attend courses throughout the year, Metzler said.
- The chief financial officer does not prepare the annual financial statement or annual debt statement and does not present the financial records in a complete and audit-ready condition.
- The borough does not retain outside assistance to prepare the municipality's annual budget from an individual or entity separate from the municipality's audit firm.
- Fair Lawn does not exclude healthcare coverage from part-time elected or appointed officials.
- Future borough collective bargaining agreements with employees will not seek contract provisions allowing employees to be switched to the State Health Benefits Program. This is because the current employment contract states that a change in health care requires a change to a plan equal to or better than the current plan. The SHBP is not equivalent to the borough's current health plan.
- The borough does not make public on its website the current salaries of employees, nor how those salaries have changed over a three-year period.
- Fair Lawn has not adopted a policy eliminating longevity awards, bonuses or payments for non-union employees