Sunday, April 15, 2018

NJ We Have A Spending Problem

New Jersey taxpayers pay almost $30 Billion a year in property taxes to cover the costs of our inefficient, bloated and in some ways backward system for delivering services. Thirty billion dollars is 10% of what the other 49 states pay in property taxes. New Jersey taxpayers, we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. The current push by Trenton to increase income tax, sales tax and corporate taxes for more school funding, pension funding and more municipal aid will never be the answer. It will actually add more overhead, increase our inefficient structure and have us paying $32 Billion in no time. Where is the concern of our elected officials and the voter outrage that the majority of residents have to work two to three months just to pay their property taxes? Every elected official, including mayors and the governor should be looking at ways to reduce our overhead, demand our services become more efficient and reward innovation. The problem we must address is the current cost of providing local services. If we look at two towns merging or three school districts combining, it is difficult to see how this could reduce property taxes significantly. But if we look at the entire state and reduce hundreds of redundant town and school administrations, we see a substantial and permanent cost reduction and more appropriately sized structures. For example, we have approximately 680 superintendents running our schools. A superintendent earning $175,000 per year paid by local school budgets becomes a pension liability that swells to $2-3 Million which is paid by all NJ taxpayers. Imagine the fiscal sustainability of 300 fewer superintendents and administrations created by unifying all of our school districts to K-12 districts like most other states. Here are just a few examples of elected officials that have looked into ways to give taxpayers the best value for their hard earned tax dollars. In 2015, the Pennsauken governing body asked for a proposal from Camden County about contracting their police services from the county. The report concluded that the town could save between $4.8 and 5.8 Million per year depending on the staffing levels selected while providing a much better service. No action has been taken on this proposal. A State report for the Hamilton fire commissioners confirmed that consolidating their current nine separate fire districts into a single unified district would save their taxpayers $2.7 Million per year and would provide superior service. No referendum on this proposal to date. Last year, the Hopatcong school board paid for an Operational Efficiency Audit. This audit found multiple ways the administration could operate more efficiently to save $4.48 Million over 5 years. Since Hopatcong receives over $11 Million in state aid each year, we all pay for their inefficiencies. This report has received a lukewarm response and no reforms have been implemented to date. What business or individual would pass on an opportunity to save millions? NJ taxpayers and elected officials it is clear we must reduce the bloated, vastly overstaffed administrative structures of 565 towns and 687 school districts. All of our state income taxes and 8% of our sales taxes are spent on property tax relief in the form of school and municipal aid. We are all paying to support this antiquated structure. Only a state wide initiative, bold elected leaders and an outcry from taxpayers will change the course of our highest in the nation property taxes. If we fail to realize the depth of change required to attain our future sustainability then both our state and taxpayers will continue to suffer. The road to significantly reduce our property taxes is the same road that leads to enhanced education, stronger towns and a more comprehensive police service. We can no longer afford to wait!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

$1,000 Challenge Grant

Courage to Connect NJ

Do you have ideas on how to reduce property taxes?  Here is your opportunity!
  • Be Heard
  • Be Rewarded
  • Be Recognized
  • Make an impact on NJ

Courage to Connect NJ is offering $1,000 grants for your ideas. 
We are challenging everyone in New Jersey to share their ideas to reduce property taxes.

Does this sound familiar?
  • "I can't do it any more, my property taxes are too HIGH, I have to move." RDP
  • "It takes almost half of my Social Security checks. And for that reason, it is foolish for me to stay in NJ now that I am retired. I need to move, but I like my homeheavy-black-heart.png." JS

We are hearing too many of these stories. Make your New Year's Resolution one that can help everyone in New Jersey!

For more information and application 


It's your turn to change New Jersey!

Courage to Connect NJ


Friday, December 16, 2016

A Century-Old Idea That Can Rejuvenate NJ With Lower Property Taxes?


A century-old idea that can rejuvenate NJ with lower property taxes?


Ridiculous? With 565 municipalities and 591 school districts, there can be no hope for NJ taxpayers to reduce their property taxes


But wait. If NJ can reduce the number of towns by 300, that would mean approximately 1,800 fewer elected officials with stipends, health insurance and pensions, 300 fewer town administrators, 300 fewer clerks, 300 fewer police departments, 300 fewer planning boards hiring hundreds of planners, attorneys, and environmental and transportation consultants, etc.Would that save taxpayer money?


But wait. Since NJ is the only state in the country with hundreds of separate K-8 school districts. Maybe NJ can reduce the number of separate school districts by 300. That would mean approximately 300 fewer superintendents, 300 fewer business administrators, etc. 

Would that save taxpayer money?


Maybe that old idea of municipal consolidation and school regionalization  is a direction NJ needs to go in this Century!


Keep checking our website for two exciting developments:

1- the soon to be published book “A Tale of Two Tigers,” about Princeton’s consolidation by former Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner; talks, receptions to be held in conjunction with the book launch.
2- An Idea contest for innovative ideas that would reduce property taxes  five cash prizes of $1,000 each for the best ideas; details


Mergers are good for business, Why not government?

Mergers are good for business, why not government? 


Many businesses and organizations in NJ have consolidated or merged in the last five years to become more profitable and sustainable. 

Merck merged with Schering Plough.

United merged with Continental. 

The Girl Scouts in NJ consolidated their troops from 11 to 4. 

The Red Cross consolidated chapters in NJ. 

These organizations knew the status quo was failing and took actions to ensure the health and well being of their respective business enterprises


So why is it heresy to talk about how merging municipalities might have a positive impact on the future health and well being of our 565 towns

Are we best served by having 565 towns duplicating over 80 percent of the same services, such as police and administration?

When the word consolidation/merger appears in the business section, people are elated. When the words consolidation/merger appear in the local news section, people are terrified. 


Why does the newspaper section change our perception of consolidation so dramatically?

It must be because entrenched government officials have determined that 565 municipalities are essential to our well being in New Jersey

But if we want government to operate more efficiently and be like a business, then we need to accept consolidation as an option. 

Refusing to change is an unacceptable option in our desire to build a better future.


Keep checking our website for two exciting developments:

1- the soon to be published book “A Tale of Two Tigers,” about Princeton’s consolidation by former Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner; talks, receptions to be held in conjunction with the book launch.
2- A talent contest for innovative ideas that would reduce property taxes – five cash prizes of $1,000 each for the best ideas; details forthcoming.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Is Reducing Property Taxes on your Bucket List?

I will never forget the first time I met Fred Lange. I spoke about municipal consolidation as a guest speaker at the Unitarian Church in Plainfield. After my presentation, a man wheeling his wife in a wheel chair came up to me and blew me away. 

He said, "I am 81 years old and before I die, I want to see a municipal consolidation study done  with my town Scotch Plains and Fanwood. We share a school district and Scotch Plains practically surrounds the entire town of Fanwood."

All the time people come up to me to say the things they will do and promise to make something happen. It is easy for someone to say they will get back to you.  Fred Lange did. 

Wisely, Fred canvassed both towns door to door asking residents of Scotch Plains and Fanwood if they would support looking into municipal consolidation to save taxpayer money. With over 92% approval of the idea from residents, Fred reached out to Courage To Connect NJ. 

Fred had the perseverance to use the 2007 law which allows taxpayers to form a consolidation study commission. He gathered petitioners, got the required signatures from each town, sent an application to the state, held three meetings for local input, and testified before the Local Finance Board. 

On Sept. 12th 2012, Fred Lange received permission from the state to form a Scotch Plains/Fanwood Consolidation Study Commission. 

All before he died. 

Fred had the courage to withstand the headwinds of the status quo. The Fanwood Mayor used her power every step of the way to stop, undermine and lash out at Fred. At the meeting to get state approval, the Mayor and her attorney in tow, testified that Fred mislead everyone who signed the petitions and did not know how to use the law. 

Fred held steady. He told the truth and used the law as it was intended. 

The law comes with financial support to pay for the study once a commission is formed. Sadly, the current Governor was not interested in supporting this effort and the law. With no money from the state, the Consolidation Commission disbanded after one year. 

Fred tried harder than most elected officials in NJ to look for ways to reduce our property taxes. 

Fred passed away recently, a NJ Hero who did what he said before he died. 

I am honored to have met and worked with Fred Lange for over four years. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

NJ Breaking News- The Hills wants Out

The Hills Condo Development located in both Bedminster and Basking Ridge, has applied to the State of NJ to become its own town. 

The residents cite 'Local Control' as the main reason and a close second is they want their own Police Dept. 
Ralph, who serves as a Separation Commisioner says, "It will make the police much more responsive just because 'The Hills Police Department' is on the side of the SUV when it passes our houses."
Ralph is on a rant, "We want our own Town Hall with employees and parking. Enough of these special assessments and HOA fees, we want to pay high taxes only. Enough of a volunteer condo board, we want a paid Mayor and Council with full medical benefits!!"

The State of NJ's response by a DCA representative who wants to remain anonymous says, "This is NOT 1895 when anyone could just form a town for any silly reason. We can't go back to splitting Chester and Chester Boro and Mendham and Mendham Boro and Washington and Washington Boro, it was like cloning local governments back in the 19th century. It is 2016 and times have changed."

But the Hill's Development 'Separation Commission Chair' cites the over 400 towns that are incorporated in 2016 with fewer than the Hill's 4,728 Households. How ridiculous is it that Loch Arbour is a town and only has two blocks? They have a Mayor and a Governing body. Why can't we???"

The Chair Suzie Beecham continues, "If we are going to pay increasingly Higher taxes, than we want TOTAL Local Control!! We want to solve our Two town Identity issues once and for all.  And I want to be Mayor." Don't you think Mayor  Beecham sounds better then a Chair. 

Sounds like a plan from 1895. 

Hopefully this fable made you laugh at why NJ has 565 local governments. Then you can cry when you get your next tax bill.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The 2% Property Tax Cap gets an F

In 2011 the legislature and Governor enacted a 2% tax cap on all municipalities in the state. They bragged at the time about now we have real "tax reform" in NJ. 
Here are the facts. 225 towns exceeded the cap in 2012 and last year 334 towns have ignored the 2% tax cap. Sounds like an F. 

But things get worse when you see what every town is doing to hide the tax increases by exploiting the exemptions that are not included in the 2% tax cap. 
One example. If police departments purchase a new car that is inside the cap. If police departments purchase an SUV then it is outside the cap because they can bond for it. Thus we have a proliferation of police SUV's in every town costing the taxpayer more in price, interest payments, and vehicles that are gas guzzlers. Sound like tax reform yet?

Can things get any worse? Yes! Towns can sell their assets. Last year legislation was passed to allow for municipalities to privatize their PUBLIC water systems and waste water treatment centers. 
Now your town can sell your asset, building, land and service to a for-profit company. Oh and by the way, you pay for the purchase price, because the for-profit companies can include it in their monthly fees. And for those who love their "Home Rule" your voice and vote is not required. 
You have been silenced. 

Somehow Municipal Consolidation doesn't sound so scary.