I’m Rich Fortunato and one of the reasons I am running for the State Assembly in District 22 is to work to reduce our property taxes.    

You may not realize it but it is very likely that more of your property taxes go to your school district than to your town. In Clark and Middlesex Borough, almost twice as much of your taxes go to the schools than to the town, in Dunellen, more than twice as much goes to the schools than to the town, in Green Brook, almost three and a half times as much, while in Scotch Plains more than four times as much in taxes goes to the school district than to the town. 

The way we pay for schools is the main reason why many towns have very high property taxes, to the point where some residents, like people on a fixed income (such as seniors) and many middle income people, are finding living there isn’t affordable. To solve our property tax problem we need to change how we fund our schools.

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Our state Constitution is clear that all State money used for the support of the public schools is to be appropriated “for the equal benefit of all the people of the State”.

Some of the towns in District 22 (where I am running for Assembly) do receive significant amounts of state school aid, while some receive very little. In any case, the vast majority of state school aid ($8 billion last year, funded by the state income tax) is sent to relatively few large urban districts.  

I think that state school aid should be paid out to the school districts with more emphasis on how many students are in each school district. Under the current system many school districts, despite having thousands of students, receive very little state school aid; if they did receive aid based on the number of students in the district (or at least partly on that basis), they could substantially reduce their school taxes. Or, to put it another way, if they received back as school aid more of their fair share of the state income taxes they pay, these towns could stop paying twice (through state income taxes and property taxes) for their schools.

Doing this would likely reduce the state aid available to some districts, but their aid would also – either fully or partially – be based on the number of students they have. I think that we need to re-balance how school aid is distributed so that towns which receive very little of it now and have high or very high school taxes can get at least some relief. The people in those towns, maybe not so much the wealthy but seniors and middle income people, need relief from their high property taxes.     

Attempts to change school aid to work on a more equal basis are repeatedly blocked in the Assembly, including by our current Assemblymen. Too many politically powerful interest groups are invested in keeping the current system. For more information visit www.fortunatoforassembly.com. Please consider voting for me November 7th.