LIVINGSTON, NJ – If every student in New Jersey received the same state aid per student, according to a plan put forth by Gov. Chris Christie to change the state-aid formula, West Orange taxpayers would see a property-tax reduction of about $2,228.
According to Christie’s plan, all New Jersey school districts would receive the same $6,599 per student in state aid. Using the same formula, which Christie dubbed the “Fairness Formula,” the residents of 17 Essex County municipalities would see their property taxes significantly reduce.
The following is a list of Essex County’s “Fairness Formula” property-tax savings from highest to lowest savings, with the Borough of Glen Ridge having the highest-projected savings in the state:
Glen Ridge Borough, $4,506
Millburn Township, $3,985
South Orange Village, $3,764
Montclair Township, $3,339
Maplewood Township, $3,164
Livingston Township, $3,044
North Caldwell, $2,699
Essex Fells, $2,458
Verona Borough, $2,236
West Orange Township, $2,228
Caldwell Borough, $2,130
Cedar Grove Township, $2,118
West Caldwell Township, $2,054
Nutley Township, $1,850
Bloomfield Township, $1,431
Fairfield Township, $1,422
Roseland Borough, $1,376
West Caldwell Mayor Joseph Tempesta, who is also the president of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, said he recognizes that some of the Abbott districts and inner-city districts would probably see a very drastic reduction in state aid, but said that he would strongly support the idea based on the positive numbers estimated for the Caldwell-West Caldwell district.
Currently, more than 90 percent of the budget for many Essex County school districts, including Caldwell-West Caldwell, Livingston and West Essex, is funded by property taxes—or out of the taxpayers’ pockets. According to Tempesta, 93 percent of Abbott school districts’ budgets is funded by the State of New Jersey, leaving the local taxpayers to pay only about 8 percent out of pocket.
“Clearly, we have nowhere to go but up,” said Tempesta, referring to his own district. “In Caldwell and West Caldwell, the local taxpayer pays about 93 percent and gets about 8 percent in state aid. I kind of agree with [Christie]—I think the New Jersey State Supreme Court really has to look at this whole Abbott-district funding because I think it was done a number of years ago and I think it was done unfairly.”
Caldwell Borough Mayor Ann Dassing agreed with Tempesta and also said she would support Christie in this plan, which he said would significantly reduce aid to urban districts and simultaneously lower the property taxes in suburban towns like Caldwell and West Caldwell.
“When I heard that the Fair Funding Plan would mean an 802-percent increase in state aid for our district and an approximate tax savings of about $2000 per property, you can be sure that I was and am a solid supporter of this idea,” said Dassing. “I know that in all things the pendulum typically settles somewhere in the middle so even if we were to ultimately gain half, or 401 percent, that would be a great start to achieving meaningful tax reform and relief.”
More than 350 towns across New Jersey will see a reduction in property taxes, according to Christie’s formula. However, some municipalities like Newark, Camden, Union and Passaic would see a loss in state aid to their schools and a potentially substantial increase in property taxes.
The negative impact on many schools could potentially stop Christie’s school-funding plan in its tracks.