Fact Check on Unite “Myth-Led” Advertisment, Town Topics 10-19-2011
Underlined is ad by Unite Princeton, public question group in favor of consolidation of Borough and Township.
Unite “Fact”: Every Borough and Township resident will save on his or her municipal tax bill.
Analysis: The Commission’s Impact Report does not take into account any transition costs when computing tax impacts on residential households. The consolidated municipality will have to pay at least 80% of transition costs. Legislation proposed by
Governor Christie would, if passed, lead to 20% of “approved transition costs” being paid for by the state.
The Impact Report states that an average Princeton Borough resident will save $201
per year— that’s on a $15,000 tax bill — assuming 16.5 employees are laid off and transition costs nothing. The layoffs include 9 police officers who have union contracts. If transition costs $1M a year over five years, only half the staff is laid off and that takes 5
years, and Township trash removal only costs $241/person, the average Princeton
Borough tax bill will increase by $274 in the first year. If, as is commonly true, the larger service organization requires more managers and staff than the two smaller ones which go to make it up —meaning more employees must be hired instead of employees laid off—the increase in taxes will easily double or more.
Unite “Fact”: Borough and Township residents will continue to receive the same or better services as they have today.
Analysis: Laying off eight patrol officers will result in a 20% reduction in patrol officers on the street. This is not the “same or better service”. Township residents will receive some better service, however, as the municipality will start to pay for their trash collection. How street cleaning, and leaf, debris and large item disposal will be allocated has not been planned.
Unite “Fact”: All residents will gain a voice in zoning decisions through a single, accountable government.
Analysis: There are 5,000 homes in the Township, 2,000 in the Borough. Voting will be at-large in the new municipality, and it may well be that there will not be a single former Borough resident on the Zoning and Planning Boards.
Unite “Fact”: In-town voters will make up the majority in a consolidated municipality, strengthening representation for the downtown.
Analysis: In-town voting is defined by Unite as ½ mile from current Borough borders. This includes large areas that are very far from the downtown, such as the intersection of Roper Road and Route 27. That intersection is the same distance from downtown Kingston as it is to downtown Princeton. How can this be considered “in-town”?
Unite “Fact”: Advisory planning districts will unite and provide standing to neighborhoods in a consolidated municipality.
Analysis: Advisory planning districts have no power of any kind. They do not vote. Their only power is to ask the Regional Planning Board for a written reply to their questions and requests. The written reply may simply be “We deny your request.” Advisory planning boards are not a substitute for actual representation on these boards.
Unite “Fact”: The Borough has depleted its capital surplus for the last several years in order to keep taxes flat. Without consolidation, taxes are sure to increase.
Analysis. The capital surplus is approximately 30 times greater than it was in 2002. Furthermore, in 2009 and 2010, the last years for which data are available for the surplus (general), it was at its 2nd and 3rd highest value of the decade. See graph below.
The capital surplus saw a large increase in 2010 due to improvements that were cancelled so for that year the capital surplus was unusually high. Borough has been able to hold its taxes steady even as expenses have risen because it has large sources of non-tax income. The Township has raised taxes the past several years to cover increasing expenses.
The capital surplus is replenished several times a year from these sources: 1. State aid. This has dropped a bit in the past years, but has not taken a dive.2. DOT grants for road work 3. Unspent capital that has been set aside for proposed projects. 4. Township contributions to joint capital projects that the Borough paid for.
1. No data provided
2. Current as of October 2011
(source: Borough Hall through OPRA requests).
Unite Conclusion: Consolidation delivers approximately $4.8M in benefits to our combined community.
Analysis: There is no basis or mention in any of the Consolidation Commission reports for this figure.
Since the release of the Final Report, the Commission has continued to re-adjust its “savings” figures, using dubious reasoning to justify their new numbers. Even under the most optimistic predictions, where all layoffs occur, Township municipal trash collection costs only $1.2M, and there are zero transition costs,the savings to the municipal budget would be less than $2M. In any more plausible scenario, our property taxes will increase as a result of Consolidation. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS ON THE COMMISSION’S NEW SAVINGS NUMBER.