Language Exempts EHT from Unwarranted Fees & Provides Aid to EHC
(2nd LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT) – Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo on Thursday hailed legislative approval of the proposed state budget that includes two major victories for Atlantic County taxpayers – one would relieve the Egg Harbor Township School District from an unfair state assessment that would take money away from classrooms, while the other would provide more state aid to the Egg Harbor City School District to help handle sharp enrollment increases.
“This is a great day for Atlantic County taxpayers,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “I have worked with legislative leadership because it’s the right thing to do for the taxpayers. I thank them for their support. In both cases, this help will provide much-needed property tax relief and improve the education of our children. That’s something everyone should be able to support.”
Mazzeo met earlier this month with the state education commissioner to exempt the Egg Harbor Township School District from an unwarranted $543,000 state assessment that would take away money from classrooms.
Since 2010, township taxpayers have paid more than $2.2 million in Economic Development Authority assessments that stem from School Construction Corporation bonds used to build new schools in the previous decade. Never in the referendum question did township taxpayers agree to pay these annual assessments, but after being included in the state budget, districts such as Egg Harbor Township have no recourse but to pay the assessment. Without the budget language, next fiscal year’s assessment for Egg Harbor Township would rank third highest in the state.
Exempting Egg Harbor Township from paying the assessment means that the district could, for instance, purchase new math textbooks in the elementary and middle schools — a cut made to this year’s budget due to budget constraints.
“This assessment is unfair and takes away money that would otherwise go into the classrooms to benefit children,” Mazzeo said. “Getting this money back on behalf of Egg Harbor Township taxpayers can mean new text books for children and hopefully avoid privatization of vital educational services. Education and tax relief must be priorities.”
The other language provides extra aid to Egg Harbor City School District because it’s one of the schools in the state that between October 2010 and October 2014 experienced an increase in enrollment of at least 4.5 percent, while also seeing a decrease in its equalized valuation of at least 21 percent in recent years, among other criteria.
Under the language, Egg Harbor City would get a $257,000 boost in state school aid, above its annual allocation of typical state aid from the Department of Education.
“This is all about fairness,” Mazzeo said. “Egg Harbor City, one of the many Atlantic County municipalities struggling from Atlantic City’s economic woes, has been hit by the double-barrel of enrollment growth and property value loss. It has hit taxpayers hard, but with this language we can provide extra help for overburdened taxpayers. We know more people need help, but this is at least a good start toward providing relief to even more taxpayers throughout Atlantic County.”
The budget now goes to Gov. Christie for his approval. The governor can use his line-item veto authority to remove the language, or sign it into law.
“Anybody who cares about the taxpayers of Atlantic County needs to support this budget,” Mazzeo said. “This is real relief sorely needed by taxpayers.”