Only three of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities are asking voters to approve local budgets that exceed the state-imposed 2-percent cap on property tax increases.
Medford, Lawrence, and Demarest plan to hold voter referendums on budgets that would boost taxes beyond what the cap allows.
Senate President Steve Sweeney urges local governments take more action to share services and reduce costs to stay within the 2 percent cap.
“I hear mayors and council people tell me all the time how hard it is, the cap,” Sweeney says. “Well, you know it’s very hard for the taxpayer to pay that tax bill. So if it gets hard to do the job, we understand but it’s hard for the taxpayer to make that payment.”
Medford Mayor Randy Pace says his town just can’t pay its bills. So Medford has no choice but to have a referendum to boost taxes more than 25 percent.
“When you’re starting at a $6 million deficit, shared services is not going to get us there. You know we’re short a third of what we spend in a year,” Pace said. “It’s almost insurmountable.”
Pace says it will be an uphill battle to get voter approval. If the referendum fails, he says Medford will have to eliminate municipal trash collection and make additional cuts in the government workforce.
Sweeney says the small number of towns that will hold referendums shows the cap is working.