Mayor’s Message: Clarifying the municipal tax questions

Mayor Louis Manzo

Recently an anonymous “flyer” started appearing in select mailboxes with some misconceptions regarding taxes in Harrison Township. One can determine what might motivate this type of behavior, but it provides me with an opportunity to once again help everyone understand how municipal taxes work.  

While we are all frustrated with the taxes we pay in New Jersey, the fact is that on the local level we only control 16 percent of what you pay annually. The other 84 percent is out of our control. It is understandable to direct your frustration at the local leadership when you see taxes go up. We are doing everything we can with the portion we control to deliver the services and quality of life that we all expect in Harrison Township. 

As I have stated many times, the “fix” for the New Jersey property tax issue is in Trenton. The answer isn’t just cutting spending. That ship has sailed. There needs to be an overhaul of the entire system. For years we have been lobbying Trenton leaders to take action, as we all recognize that the system does not work.  

Putting Trenton aside for now, let me help to explain your local tax bill. To do so, I use the example of the average-priced home in Harrison, which is valued at $342,362. With the new 2020 Total Tax Rate of $3.091 (for every $100 of assessed value), that average-priced home will pay $10,582.41 in property taxes this year, compared to $10,195.54 last year. That’s a $356.87 difference, or $29.74 a month and translates to a 3.5 percent total increase. 

Of that $10,582.41 Total Tax Bill, $1,708.39 is the local municipal portion, which we control. I know many residents are not aware of that. Again, this doesn’t change the fact that New Jersey taxes are overwhelming, and the system needs a complete overhaul, but the local budget represents less than one-sixth of your Total Tax Bill. Of the $29.74 monthly increase in your tax bill, our local municipal portion of that increase is $11.41.

As I’ve stated, the average-priced home in Harrison now pays a total of $1,708.39 annually or $142.37 per month for all municipal services provided by the township. That includes all the salaries, benefits and pension payments for all our employees, police and fire protection, parks and open space maintenance, trash and recycling removal, all the events and recreation programs, in addition to our debt service payments for equipment, buildings and improvements required. When you consider this perspective, I believe you can see the efficiency and value.

As New Jersey residents we all know the challenge. Hopefully this information provides some insight into where we are and how your local leadership fits into the equation – 16 percent. If you’re interested in additional insights, more to come next week.