By Dave Fried
East Windsor Township Mayor Janice Mironov, who also is the past president of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, recently co-authored an opinion piece with me opposing a push by Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Gloucester) for New Jersey’s municipal property tax levy increase cap to be lowered to zero percent.
This is such an important issue I have chosen to revisit our thoughts here in the Robbinsville Advance.
Essentially, a zero cap would freeze municipal spending for several years, create a debilitating budget crunch and further handcuff local governments that are already hamstrung. Needless to say, this is a terrible idea for many reasons.
In Robbinsville, we are doing everything in our power to hold the line and even cut municipal taxes, limit new school enrollment and share services within the current two percent cap that was signed into law in 2010. Therefore, the need to “purposely create a budget crunch,’’ as Sweeney stated recently, is not only unnecessary it is incomprehensible.
There are several reasons this proposal should not pass the Legislature, including the indisputable fact that the municipal portion of a resident’s tax bill is the lowest amount—usually less than 25 percent of the overall tax burden. Going after only that fraction, while ignoring the fact that most of a resident’s tax bill is dedicated to school districts, and counties will never give taxpayers the relief they so desperately need.
One step in the right direction is to trim county government in New Jersey, since those costs continue to rise. Furthermore, there is no need to force shared services upon local officials. We all recognize it is imperative to do so in this new economy, and Robbinsville, East Windsor, Allentown and Hightstown, among others, are doing just that. We also need our energy receipts. That is local revenue that the state continues to use in order to balance its budget.
The school aid funding formula also needs to be fixed once and for all. My idea is to take two-thirds of the money and divide it by the number of schoolchildren; then take the remaining one-third and distribute it to districts with special needs. Perhaps that is too simple and makes too much sense to actually work.
Additionally, do not be fooled by the recent consolidation of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township. Neither town had adopted the civil service system, and when it was all said and done, residents saw a tax rate decrease of only one penny. Robbinsville shared services with Hightstown and Allentown, curbed school enrollment, cut taxes and it did not merge with anyone.
Perhaps most importantly, we need the Legislature to stop resorting to political showmanship and gimmicks and begin crafting common-sense legislation to real problems. Local government needs initiatives that do not further limit the flexibility mayors across our state need in order to fulfill their oath of office while effectively and efficiently managing the affairs of their municipality.
Finally, I want to thank everyone once again for coming out to support the March 6 “Community for Life’’ Blood Drive at the Senior Center. Everyone involved in the planning of the event was truly humbled by your willingness to give to those in need.
Dave Fried is the Mayor of Robbinsville.