November 7, 2012

Future Taxes Will Go Up Even if New Mayor, Council Find Way to Keep Tax Rates Unchanged

To the Editor:

Between 2010 and 2012 the Township’s tax rate remained flat but the County tax rate increased by 5.6 percent and the Regional School tax rate increased by 9.13 percent. We just heard (Packet of 10/19/12) that the Consolidation Task Force revised its estimate of 2013 savings up to $2.2 million. Should we go out and celebrate? Absolutely not.

Future taxes in the new Princeton will continue to go up even if the new mayor and Council will find a way to keep the future tax rates unchanged. That is because we have no say in what the county does, nor have we any jurisdiction over the schools’ budget. We have a history of past Township Committees failing to exert pressure on the Board of Education to reduce expenses and lessen the burden imposed on the middle class of Princeton.

Lest we forget Princeton University, and all other federally tax exempt institutions, that own about 53 percent of all land in Princeton, where we go to every year, hat in hand, begging for a few kopecks with scant results.

Just look at the numbers, the school bond cost of carry in 2013 will be more than $1.2 million and the rise of normal school expenses due to contractual obligations (salaries, pensions, etc) may probably go up close to a million dollars, wiping out all the savings that consolidation worked so hard to achieve.

Yes, the new mayor and Council have no jurisdiction over the School Board, the county and all federally tax exempt institutions that are part of Princeton. But unless they are willing to exert great pressure on all these entities. Unless the school system will reduce its annual 3 percent tax rate rise. Unless the University which has about a $17 billion endowment fund will find its way to increase its annual PILOT payments to about 25 percent of the estimated $28 million tax bill they would have had if not for the federal exemption. If nothing changes, the middle class in Princeton will be forced to either reduce their standard of living or sell their houses and move to another town.

We should be aware that for middle class senior citizens and retirees the average property taxes in Princeton are larger than their average Social Security payments. We can not increase their taxes year after year.

The new mayor and Council must address this problem with the same urgency as they will address consolidation. In ten years, if we continue as in the past, the tax rate will be up another 50 percent and Princeton will be a town without a middle class. The time to act is NOW.

Ralph Perry

Random Road