The Press ran a story a little while back about rural towns complaining about cutbacks in the aid the state has long provided to compensate towns for tax-exempt preserved land. I got a letter shortly afterward from someone in tiny Washington Township in Burlington County — one of the towns complaining — who pointed out that the taxes were incredibly low there, and that the community really had little reason to be crying the blues about cutbacks.
Obviously, not wanting to be rode out of town on a rail, he did not provide his name so the letter could be published.
Today’s story on towns that may see their first municipal tax because of cutbacks in state aid — which includes money for preserved land and money to host utilities, such as the B.L. England plant in Upper Township — reminded me of that letter. Washington Township was one of the 10 municipalities in the state with no municipal tax rate.
Upper Township in particular has no cause to complain about cutbacks in state aid that might lead to its municipal tax rate inching above zero. The township, which has grown in recent decades from a rural backwater to a suburb, has a population of more than 11,000 residents. Yet state taxpayers pay for its police protection. Upper relies on State Police.
Most rural towns with zero municipal tax rate provide very few services to residents, who often take their own trash to the landfill etc. Nor — unlike Upper — do they have the population or resources to start their own police force (although many certainly could form a regionalized force). Still, when they complain about cutbacks in the aid for preserved land, do they consider the fact that residential ratables are a losing proposition — that they don’t pay for the services they demand, particularly schools?
That’s the flip side of their argument that isn’t always apparent.