I noticed a media letter about Affordable Housing by Dr. Lorraine Wearley, Ph.D. where she states that affordable housing should be provided in each community. This letter was published in multiple neighboring towns. She properly states that residents are concerned with property values, crime and school ratings. She fails to realize that in Scotch Plains we pay over 65% of our property taxes to the school system already.
Who does Dr. Wearley expect to pay for these extra students? Then there is the increase in police, fire and emergency services. Again who will fund these increase services? It no doubt will not be the low income housing, but the already taxed to limit existing residents. Dr. Wearley failed to provide evidence that property values, property taxes, crime, congestion or the impact on our school system will not be realized as she stated.
She did mention in her letter that the Supreme Court ruled that each municipality must provide a plan to build affordable housing. Is this the Supreme Court that brought us the hated “Abbot Districts” whereby we pay for schools in other towns and starve our community resulting in significant amounts of the fore mentioned property taxes. She mentioned is it not better to roll over than pay lawyers. One can see that as nothing more than a blackmail effort.
Then what makes it worse is the potential that builders are pushing for additional construction. This would serve to increase their revenue on the backs of Scotch Plains tax payers. Some of the places talked about are Parker Gardens on Terrill Road and Bowcraft on Route 22. We all know how congested both of these roads become during busy times. During a past town council meeting it was mentioned that some 75% of the building must be affordable units for families and only 25% for seniors.
When I moved into town, there were cows and horses on the South Side, if Dr. Wearley gets her wish, these will be replaced with multi-storied apartments. Leave to be said this is not the only challenge that our new council will face starting in January.
Scotch Plains has not had a reassessment of the property taxes for all dwellings in town, in excess of 30 years. Some of our neighboring communities have been forced to re-evaluate their towns. This is estimated to cost approximately $1 million. Its impact is thought to affect a 1/3 that will go up, 1/3 will go down and 1/3 will be the same. How would you like to be one of the 1/3 that goes up? I have heard it speculated that those homes that have not had significant work will see the biggest impact. I hope this is wrong, but if true will impact those that budget the amount for their taxes, because they do not want or cannot afford any more improvement tax monies.
The third is the $7 million bonds that our council this year authorized. This amount will have to be paid back by the tax payers over the course of time. There was disagreement on the council, that some of the items that were paid for with this borrowed money should have been placed in the budget. However, as done by the county as well. This debt service is exempt from the state imposed cap limit. We previously received two years of low tax increases, but residents grabs your chairs and check books, because soon we will have to write a check for these items.
The Star Ledger on February 6, 2016 indicated that of all 21 counties in NJ, Union County has the second highest average property taxes, with Scotch Plains, per the Star Ledger on February 9, 2016 having the fourth highest in the Union County. The paper also indicated that drivers in NJ pay the most to insure a car.
No doubt Dr. Wearley, the Supreme Court and our politicians are aiming to make our standing even worse!
I wish the very best for the upcoming new Town Council, they appear to rushing head long into an unwinnable situation. One can only guess as to the property tax increase, will it be 5%, 10% or what? If restrained by the state imposed caps we will have to borrow to pay these increased costs.