When the Legislature passed the Property Tax relief legislation it enacted about half of the 98 recomendations made by the four special legislative committees this past summer and fall. So that's forty odd reasons to believe that property taxes will decline. I've got one reason to suggest that they won't.
Let me tell you about my town. Delaware Township in Hunterdon County is a bucolic little place. It still has hundreds of acres of some of the most beautiful farmland in New Jersey. During the last several years it has suffered from three severe floods. Like many rural communities the schools are small and water still runs along the road after a heavy storm. Neither sewers or municipal water systems were ever built.
The state of New Jersey and Hunterdon County are spending millions to save open space. Millions more have been spent to repair flood damage. Now Hunterdon County is spending millions in local property tax and state money to widen the local rural roads.
They're allegedly widening the roads 18 inches for safety reasons. It seems that it's worth the money for broken down cars to park on pavement rather than on the acres of fields that line the roads.
Widening roads will increase the value of local lands held by farmers and developers. The State will pay the difference when it seeks to purchase the dwindling open space. The widened roads will inevitably lead to some new development as builders speculate on new homes. The flood problems will increase and the small local schools will be overwhelmed by the new inhabitants. New schools will have to be built and sewers systems will have to be constructed.
It's the same cycle that's been driving up taxes and lowering the quality of life in New Jersey for fifty years. Why is this different? Because it's happening only days after the property tax reforms were passed.
It's a common problem in government. Everybody is pulling in a different direction. The DOT wants wider roads. The Green Acres program wants open space. The Department of Commerce wants new housing. The DEP wants to alleviate flooding. The Hunterdon County Freeholders are just trying to figure which State dictate to follow.
So, there might be forty plus reasons to believe that property taxes will decline. There's one reason to believe that they'll keep rising. When everybody's priority governs, nobody's priority is governing. Governor Corzine needs to have every Department in State Government review every senseless decision, mandate and policy that contradicts the decision to end the destructive upward and endless spiral of property taxes.
If he doesn't, the only certainty is higher real estate taxes. Am I wrong?