The most intractable current problem for economists and politicians is reducing wealth inequality. In the past quarter century, the top 10% of U.S. families have seen their share of the nation’s total wealth soar to 76%, leaving nine-tenths of Americans to squabble over the quarter that’s left.
There is no proposal to address the wealth divide that is seen as effective or widely supported. But this much is sure — changing the rules to better enable the affluent to escape paying their share of public costs would widen the gap.
That’s the fundamental problem with the attempt by residents of Seaview Harbor to flee Egg Harbor Township for the tax haven of Longport. And that’s why a Superior Court judge must uphold the township’s rejection of this secession proposal. The pertinent matter of law is that the township would be hurt by allowing affluent residents to secede. That’s sufficient to thwart existing tax havens from expanding beyond their borders and worsening inequality at the same time. In South Jersey alone, similar attempts by residents of the Diamond Beach section of Lower Township to join Wildwood Crest and the Avalon Manor neighborhood of Middle Township to get into Avalon have been rejected.
Seaview Harbor residents have tried mightily in the five years they’ve pressed to leave to convince others they’re motivated by everything but monetary interests. They cite where they get their mail, which emergency services can get to their houses first and personal feelings of not belonging. Former and longtime mayor James “Sonny” McCullough, himself a Seaview Harbor resident for decades, said their claim of lesser services is baloney.
Odd that Seaview Harbor residents aren’t seeking to join Somers Point, which unlike Longport has land immediately adjacent to this isolated area of Egg Harbor Township. They also didn’t include their fellow residents in the southern part of this area (nor the handful in the northern part of it adjacent to Northfield).
The houses in Seaview Harbor are worth more than $1 million on average. And their property taxes would be reduced by two-thirds based on current valuations. They would also, though, get a big bump in home values if they could get into the tax haven — one that would pay off when they sell.
Frankly, whatever their true motivations for getting into Longport, the financials of this deal are overwhelming, and negative for the public in Egg Harbor Township and all New Jersey municipalities. The township would immediately lose more than $3 million a year in tax revenue, and a precedent would be set that would put both sides of the state’s wealth divide at each other’s throats.
Seaview Harbor residents can’t be blamed for trying to secure a large financial benefit for themselves. That’s part of the American way. But they can be blamed for the continued pressing of their attempt when it has been clear it could not succeed, so far costing Egg Harbor Township taxpayers perhaps $100,000 in legal costs. They should have dropped the matter long ago.