Crunch Time on Property Taxes
If there were any doubts that the New Jersey Legislature must reduce the state’s soaring property taxes, a Census Bureau report earlier this month should wipe them away. For homeowners with a mortgage, the state has the highest median housing costs of any state in the nation. Property taxes play a major role in those high costs.We’ve been explaining the causes of and the solutions to New Jersey’s property tax crisis since we began this blog. It’s great to finally have a major newspaper, and an ultra liberal one at that, agree with us. Better late than never.
James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, says high property taxes together with high income and business taxes are having a negative impact on the state’s economy. They are certainly working against Gov. Jon Corzine’s efforts to bring industry to New Jersey.
“We have an expenditure problem, not a tax problem,” Dr. Hughes says. The high annual increases in spending by schools and government at all levels mean that even if the Legislature were to raise income or sales taxes, the additional money would be eaten away in just a few years and the situation would again be as bad as it is now.
This means Trenton will have to make big, painful cuts in spending if taxes are to be brought under control. Health and retirement benefits for state, local and school employees, including teachers and police officers, are under discussion. But even those, which will face fierce opposition by public employee unions, will not be enough.
And then there is school spending, which few people want to talk about. At an average of about $11,500 per pupil each year, school spending is higher than in any other state, and it may have to come down. So too may the high rate of spending for schools in Newark, Jersey City and more than 25 other poor municipalities designated as special needs districts. These districts, which are supposed to receive the same amount of public money as the state’s highest-spending districts, receive more than $14,000 per student.