In Part II of Galloway’s Tax Abatement/Economic Development Program,
recommendations and reforms are offered.
A study released June 21, 2012 by the U.S. Census Bureau shows why property tax abatements are a growing issue for people who care about public education and should be approached with careful planning.
For the first time in 16 years, local funding, of which 65 percent comes from property taxes, provided the greatest share of school funding. A long-term trend in which state funding has become a larger share of the pie has been turned upside down. With states, such as New Jersey, balancing their budgets by cutting aid to school boards and local government, local revenue matters more
Schools are a critical factor for economic development because when a business considers relocating to an area, the first thing asked is: how good are the schools, and has school quality been supporting strong property values? Additionally, the Human Resource director wants to know: will a well-educated workforce be available?
Galloway property taxpayers need protection from costly and unfair abatements that can hinder long-term economic development and a sound business climate.
State Comptroller Matthew Boxer offered recommendations that should be explored before using tax abatements that shift tax burdens by offering relief to a selected set of taxpayers.
Because this differs from normal tax payments, Boxer recommends that abatements should be used sparingly and only if they offer a targeted solution. He recommends that government entities should consider whether other community development alternatives are available and more appropriate.
Galloway’s elected officials' first priority should be to enhance our local infrastructure by advocating, to the State, for a Route 30–Parkway interchange along with road and sewer improvements. Lack of easy access to Route 30 West will result in full economic development not being achieved.
Some alternatives, Boxer suggested, include investing in transportation, creating training/education programs to improve the local workforce and undertaking beautification projects. Assistance to developers with land acquisition or obtaining financing could be offered. All of these types of investments could make Galloway more attractive to new businesses while creating lasting value for our community.
As stated in Part I, Galloway’s elected leaders should reform the current tax
abatement program to split payments in lieu of taxes between the
municipality, schools and county using the same ratio as normal tax payments.
Additional reforms that would improve accountability and transparency would be to create a Tax Abatement Committee, which includes school and county representation to review and recommend the awarding of tax abatements.
Council members could hold Town Hall meetings to focus on desired outcomes of any tax abatement by including the taxpaying public in the process. Public referendums could be utilized on large projects. Detailed information should be made available on the Township’s website to ensure they are necessary and in taxpayers' best interest.
These reforms would make poor decisions harder to justify and more transparent to Galloway taxpayers.