Just as if a person walked into a buffet and loosened their belt …
I am disappointed to report that the Berkeley Heights Township Council voted 6-0, with all 3 Republicans and all 3 of the Democrats voting YES on the Cap Bank Vote. This vote “loosens the belt” of restrictions to the Council allowing them to budget more than the Cap normally allows. One would expect this from a free spending Liberal Agenda, but part of being Republican is fiscal conservatism. This vote is very disrespectful to the Businesses and Residents of Berkeley Heights. It is very easy to spend other people’s money and this vote makes it even easier for the Township Council.
While the Cap Bank is not a vote to spend Berkeley Heights Business and Residents money directly, it sets the expectation to feast on excessive spending all at the taxpayers dime. It sets the stage for spending over and above the current limitations. It was clearly stated in Tuesdays Township Council Meeting that they will indeed spend more next year because they cut back this year, and they want to have the ability to go over the cap.
Knowing that municipalities historically overspend, well over what inflation would dictate, a spending/appropriations cap is set by the state to allow only for cost of living increases based on inflation data. This law was put into place as an admittance that NJ Property taxes were out of control. To allow for extreme hardship cases, they left open the option for the local government to vote to bypass some restrictions to this spending, this option has to be voted on in the affirmative in a public meeting.
Escalating property taxes are a real issue in Berkeley Heights, mine going up from $10,500 to $18,000 in 15 years. With taxes increasing year after year, long time residents are moving out of town, and businesses are shutting their doors. Berkeley Heights was once a place with a small town feel and a mix of Blue and White Collar workers were able to afford to buy a home, it is now a place where one can afford the home but not the property taxes.
The Berkeley Heights Council needs to question professional advice that neglects to divulge a continual history of exceeded budget limits, but rather calls the Cap Bank vote a tool to provide budget flexibility and which tells the Council that most Townships Vote for it.
The budget statute’s wonderfully worded policy statement (40A:4-45.1) defiantly declares: ”...that the ever increasing cost of local government must be controlled to protect the homeowners of the State and enable them to maintain their homesteads. ...”
That is the mandate. It then provides an exception to the mandate, for an extreme edge case: “At the same time the Legislature recognizes that local government cannot be constrained to the point that it is impossible to provide necessary services to its residents.”
Yet, in the majority of years, a raised cap limit, which is the exception, has ruled in Berkeley Heights!
Both the words “impossible” and “necessary” are strong words yet Berkeley Heights has used this exception in the majority of the years. It is clear that Berkeley Heights has NOT been so close to financial bankruptcy where it would have been IMPOSSIBLE to provide NECESSARY services to its residents.
Berkeley Heights Township Council has a spending addiction. I have pointed this out in my post about the township debt and here is yet another example where the Town Council is taking the easy way out rather than fulfilling its fiduciary duties to enable “the residents to maintain their homesteads.” This is proven by the great number moving out of the town and businesses closing their doors, storefronts staying empty, all with similar stories of not being able to afford the taxes and others feeling that paying 5 times the national average in property tax is just too much to maintain their homestead.
The typical US homeowner pays about $2,279 in property taxes, according to WalletHub's data.