Wednesday, February 16, 2005

State versus Local Taxation

First, the local part. In Delanco, our school board is trying to pass a bond referendum to pay for an expansion of our elementary and middle schools. The special election on March 8th attempts to deal with the projected growth of the district from new construction. According to the board (as reported by Todd McHale of the Burlington County Times in Delanco board hits road to sway voters, February 14th), the $10 million referendum would cost the average homeowner approximately $77 the first year, rising to about $121 in 2007. This sounds like a reasonable investment in the education of our children, given that it translates to a monthly increase of about $6 per month for those of us who pay taxes through mortgage escrow accounts.

Some groups of township residents don’t wish to pay for this necessary expansion. This is the fourth time the board has asked the township taxpayers to fund the project. Narrowly defeated on the first attempt, the margin of defeat has grown each time. Many in town believe that the repeated defeats are due to the residents of Newton'’s Landing, a recently constructed development. McHale says,

[A]t Newton's Landing, a 250-unit age-restricted development, the road show wasn't a hit. Three dozen residents grilled [district superintendent Joe] Miller and [board member Phil] Jenkins for more than two hours about the project and complained that they are already paying too much in taxes.

Now, for the state bit. Joe Donohue of the Star-Ledger reports (Tax rebate may face trim, says governor, February 16) that acting Governor Codey plans to "save" $800 million by rolling back property tax rebates.

In an hourlong interview with the editorial board of The Star-Ledger, Codey said middle-class homeowners who were eligible last year for a maximum $800 rebate may end up with checks of $300 or less. He said seniors and disabled people would see their maximum rebate drop from $1,200 to $800. The acting governor will propose his budget March 1.

Why does the acting Governor have to go after this $800 million? To cover part of a $4 BILLION budget shortfall created by additional proposed spending on other “priorities,” like $380 million for stem cell research.

For those who are angry with the Delanco (or any other town for that matter) school board, consider the impact on your tax situation driven by the board compared to that created by the state. Delanco asks for your help, while the state will simply take the money away from you. Redirect your anger toward Trenton, as that is where the problem lies. Our township children must be educated in appropriate facilities, but there is no driving need for the state to do many of the things it proposes. Call your Assemblymen, fax your Senator, write the Governor to tell them to keep their hands out of your pockets; and please, come out to vote YES on March 8th so that our kids have the school facilities they need.