To the editor:
“Taxes. Do something about taxes.”
Ask a New Jersey resident for an issue facing the state, and that’s the response you’ll most often get.
But, ever since four members of our Hopewell Township Committee decided to do something to give our stretched tax dollars much-needed flexibility at the HTC’s July 30 meeting, the opinion page has seen much disapproval from some former HTC members or those close to former members.
Leadership means taking on our collective challenges. It means more than criticism. It means helping as we, as a community, seek solutions.
The PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) for the Zaitz tract, the letters allege, will hurt school funding.
But here’s township attorney Kevin McManimon at the July 30 meeting on waiting a bit to see the impact the development will have on our schools rather than committing money beforehand based on outdated funding formulas:
“Most towns desire to preserve the kind of flexibility that allows them to make those decisions as the project unfolds and the population within those projects is realized, and you see, yes, there are school kids here that have an impact on the school, and the school should get some of the money, and they’ve given some of that money, or, probably more likely than that, on the other side, is that the impact on the schools is much less significant than old studies would have projected.”
Here’s Deputy Mayor Julie Blake, also on July 30, on how school funding is already heavier, proportionally, on the township than the boroughs:
“We are currently paying $22,000 per student in Hopewell Township and probably somewhere between $16,000 and $17,000 per pupil in Hopewell Borough and Pennington Borough.”
And from the last meeting, on August 27:
“We’re going to be paying for our portion of the schools, but what we’re not doing is we’re not increasing our share. We’re not paying more than our fair share (relative to the other municipalities).”
Sounds like careful stewardship of our tax dollars. That said, they know our schools need their funding.
Mayor Kevin Kuchinski mentioned at the August meeting that the HTC made a proactive payment to the school district from the Capital Health PILOT. The committee did that even though, of course, the medical offices have no students living there, recognizing that the schools would have received revenue had there been no PILOT.
Blake is a longtime public-school employee. Kuchinski is the president of the Hopewell Valley Education Foundation. Are we supposed to think they’d agree to something that would hurt our schools? Our school district – recently rated 16th of more than 500 in the state by Niche – is a point of pride in our community. Would we elect leaders who would adopt a plan that would hurt our schools?
That’s what those letters are asking us to buy. No sale here.
Andrew Borders is a member of the Hopewell Township Zoning Board but writes as an individual resident.