In N.J., move to halt municipal fees as a way around cap on tax hikes

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney is introducing legislation that would prevent towns from imposing user fees in order to stay within the 2-percent cap on property tax increases.

Sweeney’s measure would require services such as trash collection that are shifted from the property tax levy to continue to be included in the cap.

He says anything towns are doing to move spending items outside the property tax cap has to be examined.

“Are we going to go from a high property tax where we’re going to be high tax and fees which is another work for tax? Are we now going to pay for street lights if you want them on?” Sweeney said. “Where does it stop?”

Sweeney says he wants to keep the cap as tight as possible so towns find ways to share services and reduce expenses.

New Jersey League of Municipalities executive director Bill Dressel says local officials need to consider all options.

“I don’t think mayors and governing body officials are trying to circumvent the cap,” Dressel said. “What they’re trying to do is to cope with the cap and to manage their finances and be able to provide quality of life services.”

Sweeney said the intent is to close loopholes in the cap.

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