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Fair Lawn's Municipal Best Practices Satisfy State

The borough scored 43 out of 50, or 86 percent, on its annual Best Practices Worksheet, which qualifies it for 100 percent aid disbursal from the state.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Fair Lawn does not exclude healthcare coverage from part-time elected or appointed officials.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Fair Lawn has not adopted a policy eliminating longevity awards, bonuses or payments for non-union employees

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Tommy P September 27, 2012 at 04:06 PM
1. Send the council to school, they should be exposed to the law. Even with a lawyer and the spouse of a lawyer, we get some bad ordinances. 2. Of course the CFO doesn't prepare statement so its easier to hide stuff. That should be changed immediately. 3.Why have a second set of eyes look at things, its not like they want to catch anything. 4. Benefits need to be ended for part timers including council members IMMEDIATELY. 5. The idea that the borough is limited in what it can negotiate is appalling. This needs to be changed, we should cut pay on general principle on the next round if they don't remove this likely illegal provision. 6. Its 2012, its ridiculous that the salaries and job descriptions are not posted. 7. Longevity bonuses should be ended too. We should pay market rate for the work being done, nothing more, nothing less.
Legaleagle September 27, 2012 at 07:37 PM
"The SHBP is not equivalent to the borough's current health plan." Well this is a half-truth. When compared to the IDA plan The SHBP is far superior, but then again, IDA was rammed down employees throats, was not negotiated, and IDA is not equal or better. IDA is currently the subject of a perc complaint in trenton! Funny that 65% of all municipalities implement the SHBP, but Fair Lawn doesn't, would it be this---, "Fair Lawn does not exclude healthcare coverage from part-time elected or appointed officials". Ahhh, so there it is, politicians can't join the SHBP, so punish taxpayers because the council gets paid healthcare thru IDA!
Stuart Pace September 27, 2012 at 08:26 PM
IDA is awful. That should never have been implemented.A Former councilman can be thanked for jamming that down these folks throats.
Legaleagle September 27, 2012 at 09:09 PM
If you are eluding to councilman turdeschi Stu, he was the one who assisted in the deceit to the public about the switch of insurance from the very beginning! "We are not changing the insurance" was his quote.
Legaleagle September 27, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Lawsuits Insurance Design Administraters of Oakland NJ as defendant= docket #'s DC014563 03, SC002820 04, DC004566 97, DC008740 00, DC019720 03, DC 009563 05, L008919 10, L012246 10, DC024163 11, L000441 12, DC 006579 95, DC887145 91, SC001829 12, and the list goes on and on. Who did this research before they were hired?
Go Figure September 27, 2012 at 10:12 PM
As I look at the items that our Borough is not doing I am shocked. These all seem pretty easy to enact. But I also see that they stop the "hiding" and bring accountability into the picture. It is obvious that the politicians want their cake (health benefits) and eat it too. If they really care about saving dollars that is one area that should be eliminated. The other areas are money savers too. With accountability comes savings!
* September 27, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Mr Metzler should set up a table at FairLawn Ave. & Parmalee Ave with this shell game...
MYM September 28, 2012 at 12:50 AM
They all spent more than they make as council people to get elected. What do you expect?
Have the T-shirt September 28, 2012 at 01:10 AM
And to think it was only 12 years ago we had a mayor that didn't think the internet would have an impact on local politics. Keep reporting the local details Zak, and give 'em hell Tommy boy and all the rest! Raise that score next year! LOL http://youtu.be/fhNrqc6yvTU
M@M September 28, 2012 at 08:36 PM
I find it very curious that Fair Lawn hasn't entered into the NJ State health benefits plan, saying that the SHBP is not equivalent to the borough's current health plan, yet IDA is currently being litigated as a not equivalent plan! Inclusive, the NJ State health benefits plan for many, if not most municipalities is a much larger savings! Who did not do their job, and why was the SHBP never negotiated with the unions? Why was IDA ever implemented, who really benefitted from this?
AlwaysRight September 30, 2012 at 03:15 PM
@m@m, unfortunately, history has shown the people "in-charge" are really not in charge, but use the system for their own, Fair Lawn politico's are no exception.

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