Plumsted backs state tax reform convention

Committee supports idea because of a general ‘dissatisfaction with the way taxes are being done right now.’

By: Scott Morgan
   PLUMSTED — Property taxes are a sore spot for communities across the state. So much so that state legislators and officials have rallied to garner support for a constitutional convention to reform the way local property taxes are levied.
   On Monday, the Township Committee formally voiced its support for the cause. Committeeman Ken Francis said he and his colleagues support the convention because of a general "dissatisfaction with the way taxes are being done right now."
   The push for the convention began a few months ago with the drafting of a sample resolution by state lawmakers. These legislators are asking each of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities to support the property tax reform issue via a constitutional assembly.
   It is, however, the state Legislature which has the final authority to convene a constitutional convention.
   According to the sample resolution, the purpose of the constitutional convention would be to "lessen the dependence of local government on property tax, reduce property tax as a share of overall public revenue and find alternative means of funding local government services." The resolution adds the implicit understanding of the "great political risk" the idea of raising property taxes poses for politicians.
   As designed, the convention would host delegates from the state’s municipal governments, who would debate the issue before bringing it to their respective constituencies for a public vote. State legislators hope to complete this process by November of this year.
   In announcing its support through resolution Monday, Plumsted became the most recent voice in the area to back tax reform. Committeeman Joe Przywara explained the township’s support by saying that the municipal tax rate is not an equitable system, despite being the primary revenue source for most local governments.
   Mayor Ron Dancer added, "The property tax system is regressive. People are taxed whenever they make improvements to their property. That itself is a disincentive to make improvements."
   In order to call a constitutional convention, two-thirds of those who vote on a question to hold a convention would have to say "yes" in November’s general election.
   Mayor Dancer said the committee supports the convention with the understanding that the state’s voters would have the ultimate say toward any changes in the constitution. "The people being taxed are the people who should make the decision," he said.
   The last constitutional convention in the state was held in 1966, at which time the number of state Senate seats expanded from 21 to 40 and the number of Assembly seats was increased from 60 to 80.