By Tim Donohue
In 2011, never-ending tax increases in Middle Township motivated me to run for Township Committee. I ran on a promise of a zero tax increase. I wanted to prove that, even in the most heavily-taxed state in America, a well-run town could find a way to be fiscally responsible and still deliver quality municipal services.
Under Republican leadership, that zero tax increase promise was kept, not for one year, but for five. From 2012 through 2016, Middle Township’s levy remained flat, while we found creative and innovative ways to improve municipal services.
Fast forward to the April 16th Township Committee meeting.
After raising taxes over 5.6% in 2017, the Democrat majority is now patting themselves on the back for “only” increasing the levy by 2.55% in 2018. We see our budget increase 1.1 million dollars over two years and our levy increase by nearly one million dollars over two years and we are praising ourselves for our fiscal restraint?
This is how we become the highest taxed state in our country.
Now we must add to this equation a new Governor in Trenton calling for 1.5 billion dollars in new taxes. We see the 2% cap on arbitration awards, that has saved NJ taxpayers over 580 million dollars since 2011, being allowed to expire. We hear rumblings that the 2% cap on property taxes could be going away as well. The end result is the death by a thousand cuts of taxpayers who simply have no more to give and are choosing to leave our state by the thousands each year.
Taxpayers are angry and frightened and rightfully so. So, why we aren’t drawing a line in the sand and demanding the taxpayers come first?
No, instead, Middle Township is climbing back on the “business as usual” NJ tax train. The tax train that saw Middle Township’s levy increase over 11% per year for a decade. The tax train that doubled the cost of government in Middle Township in just seven years from 2005 to 2011.
We see our school taxes rise very year, our county taxes rise every year, our library tax rise every year and every one of these governmental agencies will tell you….we just raised spending……. a little bit.
So, let’s take a quick look at what holding the line on taxes from 2012 to 2016 meant to our taxpayers. We held the levy right around 12.3 million dollars for five straight years. If the levy had risen by the “little bit” it is going up this year, 2.55%, for those five years, the levy in 2016 would have been 13.9 million dollars vs.12.3 million. Over that five years, by holding the line on taxes, we had a cumulative savings of over 3.7 million dollars.
That’s not a “little bit”. That’s real money. Real money that was put into college funds or towards a down payment on a car, a house or a business. Real money that helped seniors on fixed incomes pay their bills. Real money that went into 401Ks or was spent at local businesses.
The levy is going up one penny, about $323,192. Just “a little bit”, they will say. If that is true, then that means it was also just “a little bit” of additional savings we needed to find to deliver a zero tax increase. A few tough decisions, a few purchases deferred, a few raises reconsidered and we could have gotten there. Instead, it’s all aboard the NJ Tax Train, where we pat ourselves on the back for exceeding the 2% cap, while our residents dig ever deeper, into nearly empty pockets, or give up on our town and state and head for the exits.