Why do New Jersey local governments need funding from the State?

Municipalities, counties and school districts need enough money to pay for the many essential services that they provide. Paying for and providing many of these services (including, for example, education, transportation, law enforcement and environmental protection) is a joint responsibility of state government and local governments. But New Jersey local governments are not only responsible for delivering most of these services; they also bear the primary responsibility for financing them.

In the area of education, for example, local property taxpayers pay most of the costs, even though the State has a Constitutional obligation to ensure a thorough and efficient education for all of our children. Historically, the State’s share of K-12 public school expenditures is around 40%. State law limits how local governments can raise money. Other than State and Federal funding, New Jersey local governments have only property taxes and limited user fees (charges imposed upon residents and businesses that use or receive a specific service).

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1. Why is talking about tax relief important?
2. How is the responsibility for taxing and spending divided between the State and local governments in New Jersey?
3. Why do New Jersey local governments need funding from the State?
4. Why do you call it “municipal property tax relief” and not “State aid”?
5. What about user fees?
6. That leaves property taxes and property tax relief funding from the State. What is the deal with State funding?
7. How does New Jersey’s property tax burden compare with other States?
8. Can cutting local budgets reduce property taxes?
9. Can local governments hold down the costs of public services?
10. How can the State provide needed relief to local governments and, more importantly, to property taxpayers?