Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


New Jersey Future Blogrss

Family Unfriendly towns

January 28th, 2005 by

  • Too many New Jersey towns don’t want kids, as evidenced in weekly town hearings and by growth that favors new commercial and senior development over family housing.
  • This anti-family attitude, while tragic, is logical: The median property tax in New Jersey ($4,047) doesn’t begin to cover the median cost of educating even one child ($10,652) who may live in that home.
  • Cutting the quality of public education isn’t a desirable alternative. Nor is raising the property tax. The median property tax in New Jersey is already the highest in the nation, some $1,000 more per household per year than is paid in the runner-up state, Connecticut.
  • The best bet is to reduce New Jersey’s dependence on property taxes for funding schools and local services. Our state has the fifth highest dependence in the nation, with 76 percent of municipal revenues collected through property tax. Nationally, the average is 45 percent.

State leaders this month weighed testimony on whether to offer voters approval for a Constitutional Convention aimed at reforming the state’s property tax system.

The answer is a loud and firm yes, for the sake of our communities, our wallets, and our future.

Today’s property tax system drives communities to zone out families and to chase and compete for non-residential development, even when that development changes community character, erases open lands and adds to traffic. It offers perverse incentives that lure jobs and public funds onto open lands, and out of cities, older towns and suburbs that need new growth and investment to prosper.

“Con Con” opponents argue that tax reform is the job of the legislature, which refuses to act; or that a Con Con will lead to an under-funding of public schools, which need not happen, especially if we heed lessons learned by other states. Some say a Con Con can only be effective if it addresses state spending as well as state revenues. The legislature already addresses state spending annually. A Con Con charged with finding sustainable solutions makes unnecessary an additional study of spending.

We do not want the future offered by today’s property tax system. A Constitutional Convention is our best hope for building vital communities and a prosperous, equitable and healthy future.

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