TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger challenged Gov. Phil Murphy’s claim that every dollar in additional state aid goes to property tax relief at a legislative budget hearing with acting education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan on April 11.
“Governor Murphy often says that every dollar in additional state aid goes to property tax relief, but if you look at the data, that doesn’t always seem to ring true,” Scharfenberger (R-Monmouth) said.
He provides the example of Millstone in Somerset County, which cut property taxes by 12% in 2021 despite school funding decreasing by 13%. Meanwhile, Edgewater in Bergen County increased property taxes by 16.5% when funding increased by 24%.
“While districts that receive more funding usually don’t cut property taxes because they need to keep up with fixed costs, school districts that lose state funding are being led to cut programs and services and lay off teachers and other staff because they have to stay under the cap,” he said. “Governor Murphy can’t take credit for keeping property taxes under 2% when the numbers are in line with recent history under the cap on increases.”
In an effort to control rising property taxes, the state enacted a 2% cap on annual property tax increases by local governments in 2011. Today, schools make up 53% of the average property tax bill in New Jersey and as much as 75% in some towns. School taxes have increased by over $1.1 billion dollars since Murphy took office.
“If school funding and property tax relief is a priority, by Governor Murphy’s false narrative schools should have been fully funded immediately without any cuts being necessary,” he said.
Allen-McMillan responded by defending the controversial school funding formula, saying it is being used to ‘right-size’ overfunded school districts.
In accordance with the School Funding Reform Act, nearly a third of school districts statewide will lose approximately $186 million in state aid.