The annual fleecing of the Princeton taxpayer – 2017 edition
To the Editor:
While most Princeton residents have been busy going about their daily business and shoveling snow, two Princeton entities that declare “financial sustainability” as an important goal have been focused on the significantly less sustainable objective of raising our property taxes yet again. The Princeton Council introduced an ordinance to exceed the New Jersey municipal budget by up to 3.5% over last year’s budget (the original estimate was 6%!) and the Princeton School Board just tentatively approved a $95 million budget that includes a 4.7% increase. The school budget represents about 50% of our property tax bill, and the municipality about 22%. If the remaining components of the property tax increase by the same amount, the tax bill for the average house in Princeton could go up by $500 to $1,000. Neither governing entity appears to be capable of the sort of budgetary and fiscal responsibility that would lead to financial sustainability.
While the municipality will hear public comment during a budget hearing at the Princeton Council meeting on Monday, April 3, the Princeton School Board has avoided the former practice of local taxpayers voting on the school budget by moving school elections from the spring to the November ballot, thereby removing the nuisance of having to obtain specific public approval of the budget. Both the Princeton municipal budget and the Princeton Public Schools budget have common problems: they are bloated with salary, benefit and pension expense and weighted down with significant debt service payments. In proposing tax increases, both groups are also depending upon waivers to increase their budgets well above New Jersey caps.
In its tradition of deflecting responsibility for constantly rising school taxes, this year the Princeton Public School Board has found a convenient scapegoat — The Princeton Charter School.
New Jersey property taxes are already double the national average and based on the lack of local fiscal restraint, no relief of any kind appears to be on the horizon for Princeton. From 2012, the last year before consolidation, until 2016, our average total property taxes went from $15,000/$16,000 (Borough/Township) to more than $18,000. This rate of growth of the already highest property taxes in the nation is NOT sustainable. Last year, the NJBIA released the results of a study entitled “Outmigration by the Numbers, How do We Stop the Exodus?” It noted that between 2004 and 2013, more than 2,000,000 people left New Jersey, taking with them more than $18 billion in net adjusted gross income with them. The exodus spans all age groups, with millennials leaving in droves as well as the wealthy (who can afford to move). The reasons for leaving are always the same: higher property taxes, more regulation and budgetary excess. As a result of out-migration, revenues are down as well.
Apparently, our local elected officials and school board plan to continue supporting the exodus.
What mechanisms do we have to rein I these increases and continue to operate on the basis of a blank check?
Vote out the people who make budgets like this. There has been an active protest vote in this town–maybe 1/3 of voters–for a long time. More people need to decide that way.
But if they wangle it so we can’t vote before they do the damage, what then?!?!??! This is totally ridiculous. Let Princeton University pay a LOT more if someone has to pay. They have the money and make a LOT of it at our expense, since we pay property taxes to keep things going and they just sit there with their noses in the air. Not to mention for sure let’s vote out the rich corporate creeps whenever we do get a chance. And for sure let’s all vote for Wisniewski, who will almost certainly do a lot of good things for NJ – FOR A CHANGE – as opposed to Murphy (the Goldman Sachs corporate money guy) who will almost certainly not do any of the stuff he says he wants to do. He’s a used car salesman – sort of a modified version of Trump, who should not be believed AT ALL. Resist !!!
Better yet, vote for Jack Ciatterelli for NJ Governor as urgently needed NJ school funding reform is at the very top of his agenda.
Remember the substantially increased salary of the Rec dept head? Allegedly increased so that person would not take another job. That felt, to me, like a symbol of contempt for struggling taxpayers in this town. And the schools are admitting students from out-to-town, while we have to increase the size of school buildings at local expense. Just a couple of examples of the so-called “fleecing”. I agree with this letter completely.
We were sold consolidation as a protection from cost increases. What a joke.
Remember the substantially increased salary of the Rec dept head? Allegedly increased so that person would not take another job. That is an example of the sheer abuse of taxpayers. I feel certain dozens of qualified applications would have taken that job without the significant raise. Taxpayers are not getting raises in this economy, on the whole, but everything continues to increase in our municipal budget. It’s unsustainable and irresponsible.
Well said. I wonder why PPS needs more money/ student compared to other thriving schools in the area such as Montgomery and WW-Plainsboro. They outsourced cafeteria services and chose a company that doesn’t pay sick days; therefore risks the health of the students in a daily basis and thus employees when sick still manipulate the meals. What a saving!!!! And yes, this year they have the perfect excuse with PCS expansion, we won’t never hear the end of it. Also, construction!!!! I saw pics of a flooded auditorium when we had a big storm, they are coming with a referendum too, every year is the same.. somehow, according to the elected officials, taxes have not been raised? Well, if so, it is not going to be the case anymore. This town is a wealthy town and soon only wealthy people will be living here… a pat in the back for being a welcoming city??? Is that the name??? I know that they don’t use the “sanctuary” word… it is just messy, this is going to become a 1% town.
West Windsor’s school tax is 56.6% of our budget and likely to go higher as plans for
densely building out the American Cyanamid property is contemplated, which will require more schools as we are already at capacity. Princeton’s 50% doesn’t sound so bad, but I agree, taxes in NJ are beyond absurd.
The cost per West Windsor/Plainsboro student is $18,677 while at Princeton it is $24,634. Both districts are high performing. Why a difference of $6,000 per student? 3600 Princeton students x $6,000 is a staggering $21,600,000 !!!!
I hope you are all at the PPS School Board meeting tonight (Tuesday, March 28) where the budget is being discussed. Much more effective than complaining in the comments section.
It is very difficult for VOLUNTEERS, who often have kids in the school system, and want to be “friends” with school administrators and many teachers, but “No” is an essential part of a cost-conscious management’s vocabulary. The Board actually did a pretty good job negotiating against the very well-prepared union a year+ ago (amazing how those teachers stopped coming to the BofEd meetings?). And yet how many teachers and administrators turn down or leave jobs with PPS because the compensation hasn’t gone up enough?
Excellent letter, Dudley. Thank you for contributing your wise perspective & great summary on this topic. Princeton’s short sighted leaders are like bulls in a china shop… too bent on getting their way & too out of touch with the value & fragility of what’s already around them.
Comments are closed.