Last month, local, state and federal officials from all over New Jersey got together to learn how better to serve their fellow citizens. I, again, saw their commitment and their dedication. I heard their passion as they discussed their concerns. Our officials do so much on behalf of their communities, and we here at the League do the best we can to assist them. But, it seems there’s always so much more that needs to be done. So I’ve decided to make a few holiday wishes on behalf of all the people who live in all the cities, towns, townships, boroughs and villages all around our Garden State.
My first wish is that New Jersey resolve its revenue worries, so that the state can again fulfill its responsibility to provide inflation adjusted property tax relief funding to all its local governments. This will help us to meet our constituents’ needs for quality public service, without further burdening them with property tax increases.
And while we’re on the topic, I wish our state would address the need for meaningful, consistent and reliable property tax relief. Every taxpayer understands New Jersey’s chronic over-reliance on property taxes. When we look at the statistics, the scope of the problem can be intimidating.
According to the 2000 Census, New Jersey’s median property tax bill ($4,047) was the highest among the 50 states—more than one-third higher than second-place Connecticut ($2,961). According to New Jersey Future, we are second in over-all reliance on property taxes (46.1 percent of total state and local revenue)—topped only by New Hampshire. Among states that collect sales, income and property taxes, only in New Jersey do property tax collections exceed sales and income tax collections, combined. And that just ain’t right.
Next I’d wish for an interested, informed and involved electorate. And while I’m at it I would like to see the Press inspire both citizens and officials to remember how fragile and how important our democracy is.
Next, I’d like to see our cities and our depressed rural and suburban communities to continue to provide their people with the same level of service and the same quality programs to which they should be entitled as citizens of this most prosperous state.
My list would also include more preserved open spaces and protection for our environment. That means providing local officials with the tools that can make that a reality, such as “Timed Growth” and “Impact Fee” legislation.
And, of course, I’d love to see our Legislature recognize the need for levy cap relief.
Finally, for all of us, but most especially for those denied the gift, give us peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, peace in our neighborhoods and peace in the world.
That’s not too much to wish for, is it?
May we all have a joyous holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year.
Editorial from New Jersey
Municipalities, Volume 84, Number 9, December 2007