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FROM 222 WEST STATE STREET
Bill Dressel, League Executive Director

 

PROPERTY TAX REFORM?
WE'RE WAITING

Bill Dressel

We told them to wait. We told them that the new arbitrary and artificial 2 percent property tax levy cap would be workable if and only if it was accompanied by meaningful management reforms that would allow local leaders to reduce their costs. We warned them that those reforms needed to be put in place before they imposed the new cap. But they were determined. They compromised. And they got that cap bill done.

 We told them that was the easy part—for them, that is—and that it would be equally easy for them to walk away from the fight for property tax relief once the caps were in place.

“That’s not going to happen,” they told us. “We will put the essential management reforms into place before Thanksgiving … make that, New Years … well, in March. We know we have to, because we know that the cap will be unworkable without them.”

In December, they did do temporary arbitration reform, to temporarily help us deal with the permanent cap. And they carved out exceptions to the arbitration limits, for the costs of pensions and benefits. “But don’t worry about that,” they told us. “We’re going to do pension and benefit reforms that will control those costs. Just wait and see.”

We’re waiting.

With management reforms on the back burner, we asked legislators to consider some cap flexibility— at least this year.

“We can’t do that,” they said. “That would relieve the pressure we put on ourselves, when we put the cap on you.”

But the only people pressured by their ill-advised, premature action on that artificial and arbitrary cap are local budget-makers.

Caps are easy. Finger pointing and political posturing make the news. Property tax reform is great to talk about, but very difficult to do.

We are waiting for Trenton to do the difficult thing

 

Editorial from New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 88, Number 6, June 2011

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