April 3, 2013

Perplexed by Mercer County Executive Hughes’s Recent Explanation for Increase in County Taxes

To the Editor:

As a Mercer County taxpayer, I was perplexed by County Executive Brian Hughes’s recent explanation for the increase in county taxes, which I calculate to be a whopping 13 percent on my home.

Without an actual re-assessment of my home, or the use of some other mathematical method, how can the county assume that the value of my home has increased since the time of our last municipal re-assessment? For the 2013-14 property tax cycle, the value used to calculate the tax remains the same as the previous year, but the county tax rate on the very same assessed value will increase by almost 13 percent, just as the rate increased on the same value in the 2012-13 cycle by 9 percent. I am sure that Mr. Hughes understands that a tax rate is NOT the assessed value of a property.

Mr. Hughes states, “What residents have not seen from Mercer County are gimmicks or smoke-and-mirror tactics”. When you confuse a tax rate with an arbitrary, perceived property value, what else would you call it, Mr. Hughes?

Beyond this confusing logic, how does Mercer County justify a 13 percent increase in property tax rates to ANY taxpayer when the state legislature and the governor promised us that our property taxes would not increase annually by more than 2 percent? When the 2 percent cap was initially promised to New Jersey taxpayers, nothing was ever widely publicized about exemptions and loopholes for the healthcare and pensions of government employees or for increased municipal indebtedness. The nasty details came later. No smoke and mirrors, Mr. Hughes? The fact is that many private sector employees are forced to endure reduced healthcare benefits and are unable to contribute to their retirement plans due to economic hardship. And why has Mercer County increased its public indebtedness at a time when our state suffers from one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation at nearly 10 percent,?

No smoke and mirror tactics, Mr. Hughes? The taxpayers of New Jersey were promised a 2 percent cap on the annual increase of our property taxes, not a 13 percent increase. Plain and simple.

Frank Wiener

Loomis Court