Ultimately, that’s Sweeney’s zero tax cap goal — exhaust all other alternatives until leaders in the state’s 565 municipalities and 601 school districts seriously embrace consolidation and extensive use of shared services. The vice grip would tighten each year the cap stays at zero.Back in 2010 Gov. Christie signed a law that lowered allowable tax increases for towns and schools from 4% to 2% in order to rein in property taxes. At the time officials panicked, but we’ve mostly learned to live with it. NJEA bargaining units gulped, school boards dug in, and salary increases dropped from an average of about 4.5% to something close to 2%. Districts continue to try to cut budget lines on everything from supplies to energy to transportation to out-of-district special education costs.
“I think it would take three or four years,” Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said during a meeting with The Times of Trenton editorial board last week. “They’ll continue to find ways to be more efficient.”
He expects those that advocate on behalf of municipalities would object strongly to a zero tax cap.
“They should be driven nuts,” Sweeney said. “At least you get to the real cost of government.”
The myth that the consolidation of the two Princetons would save $3 million in the town budget was debunked at a Princeton Council meeting last year, when some Princeton officials and consolidation advocates boasted that the consolidated Princeton budget for 2013 was $3 million less than the combined budgets for the two Princetons in 2012.Municipal consolidation is hard enough. And school district mergers? Despite efforts from governors going way back before Christie, we've had almost no success. Our multiple school board madness (see former Democratic Assembly Speaker Alan Karcher's 1998 book, "NJ's Multiple Municipal Madness") is due, certainly to a rabid home rule culture but also to current state laws governing consolidation of school districts. Under these laws, any merger is a zero sum game where one district is the winner and the other the loser in tax rates. So nobody wants to play.
It turned out that $2.3 million of the $3 million was not actual savings
Labels: Christie, Education Law Center, home rule, school funding, Sweeney