Panel unveils proposals to help reduce property taxes
By Tom Hester
One of four special joint legislative committees given the task of recommending ways to cut New Jersey property taxes has come up with a dozen proposals that focus on cutting school costs, encouraging shared services, and shifting the day of school board and fire district elections.
Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) co-chairman of the Committee on Government Consolidation and Shared Services, said that when the panel goes on the road to hold hearings on property taxes, he wants the public to react to specific proposals and not just complain about high taxes.
“I want them to focus on ideas, what they are willing to live with,” Smith said. “Are they willing to have lesser government? Are they willing to give up boutique government, especially if they have a chance to vote on it. They need to understand they are part of the problem. We have met the enemy and they are us.”
The package includes four bills related to creating either a single countywide school district or a “super” county schools superintendent. The bills would place purchasing, human services, curriculum, and contract negotiations at the county level.
Four other proposals involve having towns and school districts consolidate or share the cost of public services or consolidating. Of the four, three would encourage the action with promises of state aid, and one would create a state board that would mandate it.
Two other bills would move school board elections from April, and fire district elections from February, to the November general election to promote more voter participation. One of the two remaining proposals would call for a statewide referendum on moving the municipal responsibilities of tax assessment, health inspections, and animal care to the county level. The other would mandate more public disclosure of school budget information.