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Westfielders Pay 29th Highest Average Property Tax Bill in NJ

School bill is double statewide average, according to Star-Ledger analysis

Homeowners in Westfield are paying some of the highest average property tax bills in the state, according to a Star-Ledger analysis. The average total Westfield bill comes in at $14,329.07, compared with the statewide average of $7,870.28, ranking it the 29th highest out of 566 municipalities, or in the top five percent. 

While the statewide average property tax increase was 1.7 percent for 2012, the smallest bump in more than two decades, Westfielders saw a 3.1 percent tax hike for 2012, placing 07090 in the top 23 percent for total tax bill increases. The town's average school bill came in at more than double the statewide average. 

The Star-Ledger noted that property taxes statewide rose 2.4 percent in 2011, the first year Christie’s 2 percent cap was in effect. But the trend of lower increases could be reversed because of Hurricane Sandy, according to the report.

In Manasquan, which suffered some of the worst damage from Sandy, local officials said the cost of rebuilding might drive up tax rates by at least 20 percent, the report said. To top it off, the tax base shrank as properties were washed away, according to the report. Towns are allowed to exceed the 2 percent limit on property tax collections for emergencies such as Sandy.

During his recent State of the Town address, Westfield Mayor Andy Skibitsky spoke of the fiscal challenges facing residents. The mayor said his ongoing objective is to contain costs and bring spending down to more sustainable levels while still keeping Westfield a desirable place to live, work and visit. While it has been difficult to balance the wants and needs of residents with limited resources, the mayor said he had worked hard to make steady progress on this front, citing the refinancing of outstanding bonds at a "substantially lower interest rate" that will yield a savings of $180,000 over next five years.

While he said much has been accomplished in terms of cutting expenses, the decrease in non-property tax revenues has proven to be an "extraordinary challenge."

Referring to instituting 2012's first-ever sewer fee as a "last resort," the mayor said had it not been implemented a $1.3 million budget gap would have resulted. That shortfall would have forced services to be cut to levels council members unanimously agreed would be "unacceptable."

Skibitsky noted that 2012 municipal salaries and wages came in at slightly less than they were in 2005. Mostly through attrition, with the workforce down 20 percent from where it was in 2005, efficiencies and collaborating with unions was this able to be accomplished.

Town CountyAverage County BillAverage Municipal BillAverage School BillAverage Total BillPercent Change from 2011 Westfield Union$3,204.80$2,657.55$8,466.72$14,329.073.1% StatewideAverage$1,425.45$2,324.66$4,120.16$7,870.281.7%

The data above, which divides property tax bills by municipal, county and public education costs, was compiled from numbers released by the state Department of Treasury and county boards of taxation.

For more information, please click here.

Mike January 14, 2013 at 02:47 PM
New Jersey always make the list for states with the highest income taxes and states with the highest property taxes. The flight from this state will be tremendous over the next 15 years.
Andy S January 14, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Thank the politicians!
Rose January 14, 2013 at 03:32 PM
Seems obvious to me that there cannot be any more raises for anyone in Westfield- especially with school taxes being double the state average. I certainly hope the current board of education doesnt make the same mistakes as the old board and grant raises- If it was up to me- I would freeze things around here till the economy picks up- I have not had a raise in my job (health care) for 7 years and my husband who works in finance hasn't had one either- and has had 3 jobs in the last 9 years...
Mike Nemeth January 14, 2013 at 06:11 PM
We pay more in property taxes to the Union County government then to our own town's municipal government. By what percentage did the Union County Freeholders increase their portion of our annual tax bill? Is it true that the county doesn't have to abide by the annual 2% cap? Shouldn't there be an effort to reduce the size and cost of county government? http://www.nj.com/union/index.ssf/2012/12/costs_and_expectations_grow_fo.html http://www.countywatchers.com/?p=4808
South Westfielder January 14, 2013 at 06:46 PM
I disagree with Rose. The fact that others are out of work and not getting raises should have no impact on Teachers- Don't you want your kids to have the best Teachers in the State- Well that costs money and from what I hear the Board of Education has plenty to go around and I for one hope they give fair (I would say 3 %) raises to all the Teachers in their new contract coming up this spring.
Pete January 14, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Higher salaries will not mean better teachers.
Pete January 14, 2013 at 08:12 PM
How the heck is Westfield's school bill double the State average? More, you'd expect - but double? That's a ridiculous gulf.
tb2k January 14, 2013 at 11:05 PM
Two things: 1) Since tax rates are partially determined by assessed value, why not provide where Westfield ranks in average property value? That would provide some meaningful perspective. 2) If you have an issue with the school bill, look to the state, which contributes very little to the operating cost of the school district. If the school kicked in more to the district, it would lighten the burden on the local taxes.
tb2k January 14, 2013 at 11:06 PM
* if the STATE kicked in more to the district
South Westfielder January 15, 2013 at 11:32 AM
Thanks whoever this is for stealing the South Westfielder moniker from me. Imitation is the best form of flattery. If I could only find out how to stop The Patch from allowing others to use names already taken. For the record, I believe that a town can pay its employees, even teachers what they can afford to pay. Even though a 3% increase is in keeping with the private sector estimates for 2013, it is a sizeable chunk of change. I support our town's teachers, but not necessarily a 3% across the board increase for everyone.
South Westfielder January 15, 2013 at 11:33 AM
Thanks to Mr. Foerst, residents have successfully appealed the assessments of their homes and received decreases in thier taxes, but guess what? The town is making up the shortfall by bond referendums that if passed will increase taxes for all of us.

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