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Local Leaders Are Fighting To Control Property Tax Increases [AUDIO]

Flickr User Paul Lowry

A new survey by the Jersey League of Municipalities finds most Garden State mayors believe the state’s new 2 percent property tax cap is working the way it’s supposed to.  In the survey, 29 percent of Mayors indicated their town’s final tax levy increased 2 percent this year- with exclusions for debt services, capital expenditures, pension and health benefit costs and emergencies.

At the same time, 19-point-3 percent of Mayors reported property tax increases between 1-point-5 and 1-point-99 percent, and 18 percent said their tax increase was under 1 percent.

When asked what actions local leaders have taken to control costs, Bill Dressel, the League Executive Director, said “the number thing that they’ve been doing is shared services – continuing shared services that has been around for several decades- which means they’re looking at combining with schools, county governments, other municipalities and trying to see what they can do to achieve economies and reduce their reliance on the property tax.”

He said they’re also “deferring improvements – that’s good in the short term, but in the long term that could have some problems – getting concessions from employees…reducing staff from full time to part time, reduced appropriation to the capital improvement fund, reduced services, layoffs, furloughs…overall that’s pretty good, considering the fact that we still see costs that we have no control over -mainly energy costs and other state imposed costs that are well beyond 2 percent.

Additionally, Dressel points out “municipalities are continuing to see an increase in tax appeals- 66 percent of Mayors saw an increase in their residential tax appeals in 2011…local officials are walking a tightrope – you know you want to be able to address the bottom line – you don’t want to increase property taxes, but at the same time you want to be able to provide quality services.”

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