Today, 60% of our property tax goes to funding schools. A system that relies on the property owner’s income to keep pace with a school tax that increases as one’s property value increases is a flawed system. Property owner’s income does not increase over time; it decreases and will not keep up as a school tax and property value increase.
To lessen this tax burden, remove school tax from property tax. Make this tax a responsibility that is shared among all residents; not just those who own property. Instead, use earned income as the basis for a school tax and a dedicated sales tax on goods and services that are purchased.
Earned income is the best indicator of what one is able to pay. More importantly, every resident would be made eligible. Everyone who earns an income would contribute regardless if they own property or not. A dedicated sales tax would capture income that is not documented or reported and is only recognized when items are purchased; generally the case for those who use our schools and town services, but don’t pay for them. Homeowners would pay less of a school tax under this shared approach as compared to what they are paying under the current system. Owners no longer could hide behind Farmland assessment on land that is used more to view the Navesink than it is used for true farming. Additional revenue would be gained from those who travel in and out of our State.
Lastly, time has come to level the playing field and to do away with Abbott Districts. Take the revenue that is set aside, at the State level, for school funding and establish a foundation requiring all school districts to apply for. Establish general guidelines and a funding criteria based on need. Most importantly, hold the school district accountable for how the funding was utilized before evaluating the funding needs for the upcoming year.
Mr. Short is a former Middletown Township Committeeman