Tax Accountability and Straight Answers

Smart Growth and Development

Let’s bring the residents of Hunterdon into the process of budgeting; it’s our taxes! We presently face a monolith, an oligarchy and a current commission acting unilaterally for the benefit of few. Hunterdon residents need a budget process that includes everyone. A process that’s honest and open for public debate. A process held at conveniently-scheduled, fully-accessible meetings and open forums to provide public discourse and input.

Let’s clearly identify and list for public disclosure all sources of revenue planned and anticipated during the budget process: taxes, special assessments and grants.

The current 31.5 cents tax rate is not a product of sound management, but a leveraged application of grant programs such as Build Back Better and ever increasing tax ratables. The truth is county revenues and budgets are ever increasing. There is no guarantee of these alternate tax revenues existing in the years to come. Less these government programs and alternate revenues our taxes will increase dramatically.

Let’s provide a strategic outlook forward of anticipated expenses to plan for and soften the inevitable reduction of revenue.

Let’s identify the visible, inherent shortcomings of the current budgetary “pay as we go” philosophy. Reliable county revenue assets and facilities are being sold to balance the budget. Simple maintenance and repairs to our key facilities are not undertaken. Drive into our county complex on Rte. 12 and view the parking lot of the county library with its potholes, ruts and missing striping to confirm that.

Let’s leverage our inexpensive tax dollars of today against the inflationary dollars of tomorrow. This is sound conservative planning. Who among us pays cash up front for capital expenditures? Does anyone go intentionally wanting for an automobile or a house, because they refuse a loan or to grant a mortgage? What industry does not issue notes against future revenue to acquire new or expanded businesses?

Why not issue notes as a budgeting tool? The cost of a 50-year building should not be borne solely on the backs of residents and taxpayers here today, but the costs should also be shared by those generations in need of the use and services that will follow us.

Let’s respect land preservation. Hunterdon has preserved above all other counties statewide vast agricultural lands and farms. It is a rich legacy of culture, history and future that we will leave for our children. Yet, this legacy does not come without external pressures for continued residential and business development.

Let’s not prohibit balanced development. We must do our part to redirect and redevelop those communities that have existing structure, infrastructure and transportation appropriate for thoughtful development. We need to reexamine the county’s role and position in cooperation with our 26 municipalities to provide mentorship, resources and guidance to the communities for the benefit and strength of a greater county regional economy.

Let’s position our transportation corridors not as a conveyance for warehousing and goods, but as fertile ground for research, development and incubation of new ideas and products. Hunterdon has access to an educated workforce, major universities and the richest markets in the country. We, along with our municipalities and state, need to exploit our advantages for the greater betterment of our county.