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Sarlo: Nothing In Fy11 Budget Will Protect Against Property Tax Hike

TRENTON – Senate Budget and Appropriations Chairman Paul Sarlo said today’s testimony by Department of Community Affairs Acting Commissioner Lori Grifa should be a warning to municipalities and taxpayers that working their budgets to meet doomsday scenarios may not be enough.

“Acting Commissioner Grifa has my support for her confirmation, but I do not for one second envy her job,” said Sarlo (D-Bergen). “I know I certainly wouldn’t want to be in the position to tell mayors across the state that despite all they may do to share services and keep costs down, it won’t be good enough. I also know I wouldn’t want to be in the position to have to tell New Jersey’s seniors that while their property taxes are set to once again go up, they won’t see a dime of relief this year.”

Sarlo noted a portion of the proposed budget’s language that says that if a municipality increases property taxes to offset any portion of their lost consolidated “CMPTRA” aid, they will be penalized through a further dollar-for-dollar aid cut.

“Even if after all the sharing and cutting it turns out that the only thing left to prevent the utter dissolution of essential services is a property tax increase, towns will get penalized for that, too,” said Sarlo. “New Jersey’s towns and taxpayers are being told they are going to have to sacrifice to get the state’s budget back in order. But that sacrifice is going to have a price tag attached in the form of higher property taxes.”

Chairman Sarlo said he supports the administration’s attempts to create a “tool box” of policies that can be used to contain local spending, but he reiterated that those discussions have no bearing on the current budget, since they wouldn’t even be in place until next year.

“I look forward to working with the Acting Commissioner and the administration as they determine what the measures they intend to put into their municipal tool box will look like,” said Sarlo. “Tool boxes aside, the simple fact remains that there is nothing in this budget that will stave off the single largest property tax hike since anyone can remember.”

Sarlo also voiced concern about the Commissioner’s testimony regarding the planned distribution of $159 million in so-called Transitional Aid to urban centers. Commissioner Grifa confirmed to the committee that her department will have fewer resources at the ready to provide oversight for the use of the funds.

“At a time when the administration is taking such a tough line against municipal spending and offering poison pills to towns that are trying to do the right and fiscally responsible thing, it’s troubling that it may not have the ability to properly police its own policy in every community,” said Sarlo.