By Brian Thomasart,
A “penny” for your…art?
Legislation making its way through Trenton would grant municipal governments the ability to impose an additional tax levy on properties to fund new and/or existing “artistic and cultural” programs.
Under bill A3832, towns could seek voter approval for the creation of a new “art” tax to be included within your annual property tax bill, similar to how library and open space fees are collected.
Local elected officials would need to detail the rate’s percentage or the total amount sought from residents on ballot questions; however, there is no limit currently written within the bill. In either case, any approved increase would effectively translate to a higher cost on already overburdened taxpayers.
The legislation was introduced after sponsors of the bill were petitioned by a Hudson County based arts council. The council lobbied for its necessity after suggesting that existing funding measures are unable to sustain current projects and future program needs.
How are these programs funded now?
Public support for the arts in New Jersey is presently drawn from a dedicated source – the Hotel/Motel Occupancy Fee (2003); however, as is the case with many things in Trenton, a large percentage of funds is often diverted to other areas of the State Budget.
Additional funding sources include federal grants, such as those from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Exit, stage New Jersey…?
Though funding for the arts is a worthwhile cause, it is extremely difficult to ask taxpayers to bear the brunt of any new cost increase, especially on property taxes which hit an all-time high average of $8,767 in 2018.
If the diversion of existing mechanisms are an issue, lawmakers should examine how best to redirect funds back to their originally intended purpose and not put yet another one of Trenton’s blunders on taxpayers’ backs.