Maybe one small additional reason why Princeton’s property taxes are so high (see letter below) is that the community occasionally has to shell out extra money to accommodate special events such as Communiversity this past Sunday.

We don’t know the details of the event’s budget, and possibly the Arts Council of Princeton uses the fees it charges for exhibit space to compensate the township for clean-up, security, and traffic control, etc. But few people would quarrel with the arrangement. It was a great opportunity to meet our readers in person. We thank all of you who stopped by our booth to say hello.

#b#Princeton’s Taxes: Worse than Average#/b#

As an overburdened Princeton taxpayer, I read with interest Diccon Hyatt’s April 13 story “Your Taxes Are Sky High — What Do You Get in Return.”

One additional, important comparison is the size of Princeton’s annual budget against towns of similar population and socio-economic status. With a similar population, West Windsor’s annual budget stands at $38 million in comparison to Princeton’s staggering budget of $61 million, a huge difference. While many consider the cost of living to be higher in North Jersey, two wealthy northern towns, Westfield and Livingston, have much lower budgets of $43 million and $46 million respectively. The debt service of these towns is $2.3 million (Westfield) and $6.3 million (Livingston) in comparison to Princeton’s whopping $11.4 million. In addition, Princeton’s budget includes several separate “reserve funds” that far exceed most other towns of its size.

One other important factor in Princeton’s overall tax burden is the very high assessment to Princeton by Mercer County, currently totaling $45 million. In comparison, many other towns with similar populations are only assessed at a fraction of this amount by their counties. For example, Fair Lawn is only assessed for $10.3 million by Bergen County, Randolph for $10.7 million by Morris County, Ocean Township for $13 million by Monmouth County, and Bernards Township for $23 million by Somerset County.

While property taxes in New Jersey as a whole are among the highest in the country, Princeton’s tax situation is much worse even than most New Jersey towns of its size and living standard due to (1) a municipal budget that far exceeds those of similar towns, (2) a county that assesses Princeton at a much higher rate than the assessments of similar towns by other counties, and (3) a very demanding school board that exceeds the per pupil cost of most New Jersey districts. As to the level and quality of municipal services, the streets of Princeton are in no better condition than most other towns. Piles of yard waste continue to accumulate, posing both traffic and health hazards, due to the town’s woefully infrequent collection schedule.

Unfortunately, the current reality for Princeton homeowners is inadequate municipal services in exchange for the very high taxes that continue to cripple Princeton’s rapidly diminishing middle class.

Frank Wiener


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