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Doug Forrester


We Need a State School Tax.

So long as municipalities fund their schools with property taxes, neither the quality of the schools nor the value of the properties will ever improve. Would anyone voluntarily move into a town with bad schools? If they don't the property values won't increase significantly nor will the property taxes; thus, the schools won't improve. Furthermore, wealthier towns actually get a discount. There is only so much money a municipality can spend on a school. The school portion of a wealthy town's property tax may be greater in dollar value, but it is most certainly lower by percent. In a town with a lot of rental properties, the problem is the worst. The percent tax burden is largest, but the money per student is lowest.

We need to centralize the school taxes. The state needs to create a budget for all the schools statewide. This budget would include capital improvements to meet minimum criteria, teacher salaries, and operating expenses. The budget would then be apportioned among all taxpayers who have children in school and apportioned based on income. For example (assume a 1% school tax for sake of argument), a senior-citizen couple whose children are no longer in school would pay no school tax; a family making $100,000 per year that has 2 children would pay $1000 per year in school tax; a family making $1,000,000 per year that has 1 child would pay $10,000 per year in school tax. There would, of course, be a minimum family income for taxation and all deductions would apply as in income tax. The municipalities would be relieved from taxing it's homeowners directly, but could if they so desired. Though one intuits that they would not levy any further tax.

This plan has the effect of leveling the playing field, exempting seniors from paying a tax for which they receive nothing, and would actually relieve some taxpayers from the burden of living in a county with a "money-pit" school district, like Essex county where tax payers in the wealthier suburbs pay much higher taxes because the county needs to lend support to the Newark school system.

It is also a more transparent tax scheme for aiding urban schools. A significant portion of state aid goes to Newark, Camden, Paterson, Passaic, Clifton, and others. Because it isn't a separate line item on the tax bill, one doesn't know how much help to these districts is included in one's taxes. Under this plan, if your school district and the urban districts aren't improving, you can draw a straight line to the money and take it up with your elected officials.

Centralizing the school system also makes good business sense. There would be one union contract, far fewer construction contracts, one book-buying contract for most textbooks, etc.

by cookie on July 02 at 1:22 PM EST


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