April 18, 2012
Re: Energy Receipts Restoration Press Conference Update
Our bipartisan efforts to educate the press and the public on the State’s long-standing reliance on municipal revenues to balance its budget; and the impact that those diversions have had on property taxes continue.
As reported in yesterday’s letter (http://www.njslom.org/letters/2012-0417-mayors.html), Mayors from all around the State participated in a Press Conference and a Mayors’ Roundtable in Trenton.
League President, Mayor Art Ondish of Mount Arlington, opened the Press Conference by thanking Governor Christie and Legislative leaders for all the reforms that have been put in place over the past two years, which will rein in some of the major municipal cost drivers. “What we ask of them this year will take similar discipline,” Mayor Ondish concluded. “This year, we want them to begin to end the State’s chronic dependence on local revenues to balance its budget.”
The leader of the League’s bipartisan effort to restore these revenues to local purposes - our First Vice-President and the Chairperson of our Energy Tax Receipts Restoration Task Force, Mayor Janice Mironov of East Windsor - stated, “"This is a huge issue for towns. This needs to be everyone’s top priority."
Mayor Mironov explained to the Press, “Municipalities are the collection agency for property taxes for the schools, counties and special districts as well as municipal governments. Can you imagine the outcry if a municipal government said to the school district, “since we are having a tough year, we are withholding from you $1 million of ‘your’ tax money and you will just have to make due.” How are the state’s actions any different or any more defensible?”
Citing the Statewide tax relief funding cuts of $32 million in 2008, $26 million in 2009 and $271 million in 2010, Mayor Mironov explained that East Windsor property taxes are higher now, despite the fact that East Windsor is spending less. The State’s diversion of tax relief funding has overwhelmed local efforts to reduce property taxes. Restoration of the $2.8 million denied East Windsor taxpayers in 2012 would reduce the local purposes tax rate by about 10 cents, or about 25% on the rate of $.41.
Representing Mayor John Bencivengo, who also serves as Vice-Chair of our Restoration Task Force, Hamilton Township’s Chief Financial Officer John Barrett echoed that concern. Mayor Bencivengo’s statement noted, “In 2010, our taxpayers saw nearly $5 million in this revenue diverted, or skimmed, from their local budget. … $5 million equals approximately 10 cents on our 2012 proposed municipal tax rate, which is $1.20 per $100 of assessed value. This year, even though our township’s overall budget will be several hundred thousand dollars below our town’s 2010 budget, our tax rate is increasing by 2 cents. In other words, it means although our taxpayers’ local budget is spending less, taxes are increasing – and the clear culprit is the continuing loss of Energy Receipts and CMPTRA revenue.”
Mayor Colleen Mahr of Fanwood Borough, who Chair’s the NJ Conference of Mayors Legislative Committee, said $2.1 million has been withheld from her town during her nine years in office. “The appetite to balance the state’s budget literally on the backs of taxpayers is out of control,” said Mayor Mahr.
Mayor Steve Acropolis of Brick Township said his city has lost $10 million since 2010 because of the state’s practice of diverting the funds. Noting the State’s ability to ignore the permanent statute, and deny inflation adjustments to the Energy Tax and CMPTRA, Mayor Acropolis said, “Just because a government entity can do something doesn’t mean it’s fair.” At issue, said Mayor Acropolis, is " … fundamental fairness. This is not the state of New Jersey’s money."
We thank all of those Mayors, as well as the others who joined us at the Press Conference, to stand up for their property taxpayers and to answer questions from the media. They are Mayor Sophie Heymann of Closter, Mayor Janice Kovach of Clinton Town, Mayor Toni Ricigliano of Edison, Mayor Bill Budesheim of Riverdale, League Immediate Past President Committeeman Chuck Chiarello of Buena Vista, Deputy Mayor Paul Hodson of Egg Harbor Township, Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh of West Windsor, Deputy Mayor and League Board Member Richard Mach of Blairstown, Mayor Paul Medany of Deptford, Councilman Greg Puliti of Lawrence, Mayor, League Board Member and President of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association Wayne Smith of Irvington, Mayor Cyril Wekilsky of Boonton Town and Mayor Harry L. Wyant, Jr. of Phillipsburg. Joining them were Hardyston Township Manager Marianne Smith, Branchburg Administrator Greg Bonin, Lawrence Manager Richard Krawczun, Egg Harbor Township Administrator Peter Miller and Wharton Administrator Jon Rheinhardt.
Following the Press Conference, eight local leaders were invited to participate in a Mayors’ Roundtable, along with the Members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. On behalf of all who participated, and on behalf of their colleagues around the State, we want to thank Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo and all members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for scheduling this Mayors Roundtable. It was a great opportunity for representatives from both levels of government to exchange ideas in a bipartisan atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation.
Our representatives were Mayors Sophie Heymann, Janice Mironov, Rob Campbell (of Downe Township), Committeeman Chuck Chiarello, Mayors Paul Medany, Art Ondish, Wayne Smith and Joe Venezia (of Estelle Manor).
A full range of topics were discussed, including payments in lieu of taxes on State owned properties, Urban Enterprise Zone funding, Workers’ Comp and Tort reform, Mandates relief, and consideration of the costs that could be caused by Open Public Records and Open Public Meetings Act reforms. But, by far, the greatest concern of the Mayors participating in the Roundtable remains restoration of promised property tax relief funding.
Earlier on Tuesday, an op-ed by League Executive Board Member, Mayor Jim Cassella of East Rutherford, had appeared in the Bergen Record. In that essay, Mayor Cassella comments on the Energy Tax skim. We have posted that on our website at http://www.njslom.org/letters/2012-0412-hypocrisy.html.
Please continue to work together on the issue. You are making a difference in Trenton. Thank you for that. If you have any questions or need additional information please contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481 x121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.