It’s a good thing we have the 2 percent cap on property taxes, otherwise the property taxes I pay to the Town of Westfield would have gone up $170 to cover the rising costs to the town of the Raritan Valley Sewage Authority.
Instead, I only have to pay a $170 directly to the town, which is not a “tax,” but a user fee that I will not be able to write off my federal income taxes next year.
Now that the Westfield Town Council has figured out how to keep the tax levy under the 2 percent cap, why stop with a sewer fee? After all, some of the same compelling reasons the town made in its 2012 Sewer User Fee – Frequently Asked Questions mailer could be applied to other services offered by the town as well.
In its mailer, the town argued the RSVA costs have risen 39 percent over the past five years while town revenues continue to decline. The town “no longer has the resources to continue to fully subsidize this utility service,” the mailer noted.
I’m sure the sewer bill hasn’t been the only cost that has risen as dramatically over the last five years. Surely the cost of public safety, public works and other services must also be on the rise.
In the future, it will no doubt be difficult for the town to continue “subsidizing” such services as costs continue to rise and revenues further decline. So it only makes sense to start thinking about other “user fees.” After all, Westfield has a long tradition of assessing user fees for services provided by taxes in many other municipalities, like trash pickup, bulky waste pickup and the recycling center.
How about a “public safety user fee?” I mean who can really expect the town to continue to “subsidize” all those police officers and fire fighters. Shouldn’t we all pitch in and pay for such an important service? You never know when you may be forced to “use” the police or fire department.
And those Department of Public Works employees who pick up the leaves and plow our streets. This is a luxury we can no longer afford in a town as downtrodden as Westfield. What about a “leaf pickup user fee” and a “snow removal user fee?”
What about all those kids playing lacrosse, baseball, soccer on our fields. Taxpayers should not have to pay for the upkeep on all these recreational facilities. Let’s assess a “recreational fields user fee.”
I’m just beginning here, but you get the point. We could go so far as being the first town in New Jersey to eliminate the municipal portion of our property taxes, altogether. We would become a model of reform, until some gadfly started asking questions, like, “Aren’t you just replacing property taxes with service fees?”
To which the council could respond, “You are just playing semantics,” before assessing the questioner with a “gadfly user fee.”