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Friday, June 22, 2007

Budget Passes but Core Problems Remain

The NJ State Budget passed well before the constitutional deadline this year, avoiding last year's week-long government shutdown.

Despite the seemingly easier job it was to pass the budget this year, the deep-rooted problems of NJ's obsolete property tax system remain, with little prospect of resolution.

A solution probably won't come from an administration where the governor can't even buckle his seat belt or a legislature that can't even pass a complete ban on double-dipping practices without protecting those who are currently robbing the public through double jobs and double pensions.

New Jersey's heavy reliance on property taxes to fund school districts and its outdated school funding formula pose quite a problem. While some say rethinking the state aid formula - which is five or six years old - is the solution to relieving school funding and therefore taxes, this solution misses the point.

Where does state aid come from? Taxes. So basically this solution, offered by some, would have us create a new formula for state aid, and then use that money to offset some of the property tax bills.

They say this would be especially helpful in school districts like Montgomery Township in Somerset County, where school budget reports demonstrated an 86 percent reliance on property taxes to fund schools, translating into an average tax bill of around a bajillion dollars for the average house, assessed at $500,000.

But wouldn't this form of relief mean taxing more in the form of the state taxes that are the source of this state aid? This is simply substituting one tax for another.

While some would surely benefit from this change over, the overall effect would be minimal, bringing us back to square one.

Maybe the solution is like many others are doing...stay in town while your kid is in school, and then hightail it for the Outer Banks upon high school graduation...

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