John Reitmeyer reports today on the rousing success of New Jersey’s 2 percent cap on municipal and school district tax increases, which has succeeded in keeping homeowners’ property tax bills in check. The 2011 bill sponsored by former Senate President Steve Sweeney during the Christie Administration has kept the growth of property taxes to 2.4% year to year, what Reitmeyer calls “a major turning point for property owners across the state.”
Good thing the State Legislature didn’t listen to lobbyists from New Jersey Education Association!
After all, then-NJEA President Barbara Keshishian foretold gloom and doom, arguing the the tax cap was “an ill-conceived and shortsighted policy” that will damage schools. In a statement she warned,
On the heels of more than $1.3 billion in cuts to public education, the Legislature and the governor have put an ill-conceived and shortsighted policy in place that will prevent our public schools from ever climbing out of the hole that has been dug for them by the state. This two percent cap has no basis in reality. It is lower than the historic rate of inflation, which means that in terms of real dollars, local school funding will decrease each year.
NJEA was wrong.
Local school funding since the bill was passed didn’t “decrease each year”: in fact, in comparison to most other states, New Jersey funds our schools generously. According to the National Education Association (one of the two national teacher unions), New York State spends the most per pupil — $24,747 per year– and New Jersey is in second place at $21,326 per pupil per year. Also, our education spending is the highest in the nation as a percentage of our Gross Domestic Product.
What would have happened if legislators had listened to NJEA lobbyists? According to the NJ Spotlight analysis, “the average property-tax bill in 2021 would have been roughly $12,800 — not the actual nearly $9,300 — if the bills had grown over the last decade at the same rate they did during the decade before the 2% cap became law.” To put it another way, during the decade before the 2% cap was imposed, average property taxes increased more than 60%. Since the cap went into effect, during this last decade, average property tax bills have grown by less than 20%.
Be grateful for small favors!