Scary Camden County

There has been plenty of talk about residents leaving New Jersey for less-taxed states.

The good news is that from April 2010 to July 2011 under Governor Christie’s stewardship, New Jersey has increased its population by 0.3%. On the other hand, Democrat-controlled Camden County has more residents leaving then coming. During the same time period, the county lost 0.1% of its population.

Why? There are a lot of reasons, but the County has earned a horrible reputation for irresponsible spending, cronyism and continually raising taxes. Since the county is not taking the bull by the horns, what choice do residents have but to leave for a more affordable county?

Existing businesses which are already having trouble sustaining themselves keep getting bigger tax bills, and what new business wants to call home to a county with taxes higher than the county right next door?

Republican-controlled Burlington County increased its population 0.2% and at the same time reduced its operating expense 9.2% and taxes 4% in 2012. By contrast, Camden County increased its operating expenses 2% and taxes 3.1%. That is very scary!

Any business knows that the more customers you have the more you can spread out your costs, something that allows you to reduce the price of goods and services. The more residents, businesses and property owners you have to spread the cost of county government, the lower the tax cost for each household or business.

Another benefit of attracting more residents and businesses is ratables and jobs. The more ratables, the more places to spread the tax levy. More businesses means more jobs, which means more employees wanting to live in the county where they work. This also helps to drive up the demand for housing stock and commercial properties, in turn driving up home and commercial properties values. Camden County has an industrial vacancy rate of 17.8% and an office vacancy rate of 23.6% as of 1st quarter 2012, whereas Burlington County has a 12.3% and 19% rate respectfully. Why? Because Camden County is not as attractive from a business owner’s perspective.

Camden County’s freeholders first need to lower operating costs especially when the population is decreasing. Secondly, they need to retool their mission statement to focus on what needs to be done to reverse the negative reputation the county has today. Third, the county needs to focus on how to bring in more businesses and therefore jobs.

Clearly the current Freeholder board can’t figure this out so they should step aside and let others who know how to do this take control. Otherwise, residents and businesses alike will continue to leave Camden County until no one is left to pay their tax bill.