Municipalities flouting employee vacation and sick pay laws to the tune of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars must be held accountable, Assemblywomen Kim Eulner and Marilyn Piperno say.
“The state government attempted to rein in the out-of-control employee payouts that contributed to the bloat in already sky-high property taxes. So the impunity with which municipalities ignored the law, or supposedly didn’t understand the law, is astounding,” Eulner (R-Monmouth) said. “The system broke somewhere along the way, and it’s time to fix it.”
Eulner and Piperno’s bills would require municipalities to publish their supplemental payment policies on their website, or the Department of Community Affairs’ site. Supplemental payments to employees would have to be approved by resolution.
An Office of Leave Time Compliance within the Department of Community Affairs would also be established to ensure municipal, county, and school district compliance with sick and vacation leave policies. That office would submit an annual report to the Legislature and governor detailing sick leave payments and vacation accruals.
“It’s well past time to close the loopholes and enforce the reforms that were meant to deliver substantial property tax relief,” Piperno (R-Monmouth) said. “The reforms are there. Now Kim and I are asking that meaningful oversight be enforced.”
The 2007 law reformed sick and vacation leave pay for some senior government employees, limiting the sick payout to $15,000 or the amount accrued up to that point, whichever was more, and limiting the amount of accrued vacation time that could be carried over into the following year.
In 2010, the Legislature extended those rules to more public employees hired after May 10, 2010.
A July 2022 report issued by acting state comptroller Kevin D. Walsh detailed the outright abuse or subtle finagling municipalities engaged in to skirt the law. Walsh’s office surveyed 60 local governments out of New Jersey’s 565 municipalities. Only three towns—Montgomery (Somerset County), Upper Township, and Holmdel—conformed to the laws. The other 57 broke some part of or all the laws, either through unlawful employee contracts or creative bonuses and incentives for unused sick leave.
“With transparency comes accountability, comes taxpayer savings,” Eulner added. “The abuses must stop.”