I’m surprised by all the commotion over the municipal budget this year. Sure, I don’t like a tax increase any more than anyone else. However, I have to give our Town Councilors and staff a lot of credit for keeping 2016 expenses to a 1.2% increase. Meanwhile school taxes will be up 2.8% for the 2016-17 school year, according to the district website.
My 2015 tax bill indicates that municipal taxes including library and sewer charges were only 22.2% of the total. School taxes were 47.4%, and Mercer County 28.3%. Open space accounted for the other 2.0%.
Looking back at older bills, I see that the municipal tax rate for 2015, including the library, was up just 0.2% from 2010/2011, the first tax year after property revaluations**. The school tax rate was up 11.2%, and the County was up 11.8%. I live in the former Borough so these percent changes may not be the same as for former Township residents – who since consolidation have received free garbage pickup that they did not have before.
Both jurisdictions held municipal tax rates flat for the last few years before consolidation. In 2013 and 2014, consolidation resulted in lower municipal taxes versus 2012.
The point is – since at least 2010, apples to apples, municipal taxes have increased much less than school and County taxes.
As in Lake Woebegone, our “children are all above average.” We love them and want them to get a great education. But let’s focus on the drivers that have the most impact on our tax bills – school and County budgets.
Rather than a process which uses percentage increases from last year, I would like to see a “zero based budget” similar to that used by the most successful corporations and non-profits. What services are truly necessary? Which positions result from this analysis, and which positions may no longer be necessary? Are we purchasing goods and services as efficiently as possible? When was the last time large budget items like insurance, maintenance, technology, supplies and major outsourced services were put out for bid?
Let’s give credit to our Town administration and Council who have done the best job keeping our taxes in check.
Editor’s Note: The municipal tax rate for Princeton in 2013, the first year of consolidation, was about 46.3 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The municipal tax rate for 2016 is about 48 cents per $100 of assessed value, an increase of about 3.7 percent.