Saturday, July 22, 2017

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Crushed by Taxes in New Jersey

Gannett has done its homework — and the homework of New Jersey’s government(s). This week its New Jersey papers are running a week long series on the state’s property tax crisis.

Visit the Asbury Park Press‘ website and click on a municipality in any one of New Jersey’s 21 counties. Wave your cursor over the bar chart to get a tangible sense of how property taxes are crushing the state’s residents.

For example in Fort Lee, Bergen County, residents face an average tax burden of $8,510, up from $5,545 since 2000. Factor in the property tax rebates from Trenton — the average check sent out in 2008 amounted to $944 — and that’s a 41 percent increase in property taxes in eight years with the rebate. You can get property tax details for each of the state’s 566 municipalities.

Yesterday’s analysis (Day 2) featured a series on one of the major drivers of property taxes: salaries for public sector workers.

Binding arbitration rules mean that unions negotiate their benefits and salaries through a seven-member commission in Trenton with the costs passed on to localities. (For background on the evolution of public sector negotiations in New Jersey from 1968 to today, read, “PERC After 40 Years.”)

Now,  thanks to what must have been a massive amount of data work for Gannett’s reporters, you can easily discover how much police officers, municipal workers, teachers, firemen, and judges are being paid in your town.

Each of New Jersey’s 460,000 public employees enrolled in a benefits program is in this data base by name, jurisdiction, and retirement fund. You can also look inside a police contract.

The Asbury Park Press highlights some of the biggest beneficiaries:

  • A principal at Freehold Regional earns $146,316.
  • A police officer in Belmar grossed $109,975.
  • In Eatontown, a patrol officer earns $90,000.

The reporting continues through Sunday, and it’s worth exploring. It’s also worth asking why some towns were more forthcoming with their data than others.