Senate Bill 2392 and Assembly Bill 3969, scheduled for a vote in both houses of the Legislature on Thursday, May 14, would authorize the Department of Community Affairs to permit municipalities to delay or alter the transmission of property tax revenue to school districts during gubernatorial-declared emergencies, such as the state’s current situation.

S-2392 passed the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on May 12, while A-3969 was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 11.

The legislation is an amended version of an earlier Assembly bill (A-3902), which provided for the delay in the transmission of property tax revenue to districts. NJSBA believes that, even with amendments, the new legislation would place a severe strain on school district finances and educational programs.

“The effort of local school boards, by passing resolutions, and individual members, by sending letters to their legislators, was a factor in putting the brakes on the previous version of the bill,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, executive director. “We urge members to contact their legislative representatives and express opposition to S-2392/A-3969 as soon as possible.”

The bills are scheduled for consideration by state Senate and the Assembly on May 14. To help local school officials address this issue with legislators, NJSBA has prepared a sample resolution for school boards to consider and a sample letter for individual members.

Committees Advance Worker Furlough Plan A proposal that would allow state and local governments, including school districts, to implement job-sharing furlough plans has begun advancing through the Legislature. The goal of this proposal is to save money for both employers and their workers by taking advantage of expanded unemployment benefits made available through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Senate President Steve Sweeney announced the proposal last month and serves as the primary sponsor of the implementing legislation, S-2350.  Under the program, employers could reduce hours for a group of workers who would be eligible for short-term unemployment benefits for their lost hours of work in addition to increased weekly payments provided under the CARES Act through July.

Entitled the “Employee Job-Sharing Furlough Protection Act,” S-2350 unanimously passed the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Thursday, May 7. Its Assembly counterpart, A-4132, was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Monday, May 11. It is expected that both houses will vote on the legislation at their scheduled voting sessions this Thursday.  If approved, it would head to Gov. Murphy’s desk.

According to a statement released from the Senate Majority Office, the program capitalizes on two provisions of the CARES Act. The first provides a “Federal Pandemic Employment Compensation” payment of $600 a week to workers laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 health crisis. The second provides for 100% federal reimbursement of the cost of state unemployment benefits for any state that enacts a job-sharing furlough program under an existing state law. New Jersey qualifies for full federal reimbursement of state unemployment benefits for furloughed workers because it already has a 2011 job-sharing furlough law. That law requires participating employers to continue to pay furloughed employees between 40% and 90% of their regular salary and maintain full pension, health insurance and other benefits.

The additional $600 per week provided to furloughed workers would be in addition to any prorated salary and unemployment benefits they will continue to receive.  Therefore, many will take home more than they would have if they continued to work full-time. The reduced payroll costs would generate savings for any employers who implement a job-sharing furlough plan. The sponsors estimate that state, county and local government could save up to $750 million if a quarter of their workforce is placed on furlough.

The state and federal laws essentially serve as incentives for employers to place workers on furlough rather than lay them off entirely. The 2011 state job-sharing law applies to both public and private employers, as would this new proposal. If enacted in its current form, the state Division of Unemployment and Temporary Disability Insurance would be required to make a guidance document available to employers that explains the procedures for obtaining approval to establish a job-sharing furlough program.

The NJSBA supports the legislation.  The Association also sought and obtained several amendments to the bill that will enable boards of education to implement a job-sharing furlough program notwithstanding the newly established requirement that they continue paying their employees and contracted service providers during the current emergency as if schools were still open.