Have They Tried Craigslist?September 9, 2008
Easy Come, Easy GoSeptember 9, 2008
New Jersey’s 615 school districts weep inefficiency. So it’s old news that the State is pushing hard on mergers of smaller towns. The Burlington County Times reports on a proposed merger of Pemberton Borough and Pemberton Township, and if any merger is going to be easy, this should be the one. First of all, all of the kids in Pemberton Borough already attend the Pemberton Township schools, and have been doing so for two years. Pemberton Township transports all the Borough kids and the only employees of the Borough district are a part-time business administrator and a clerk. Pemberton Regional School District, here we come.
But now things get tricky. Pemberton Township has much higher ratables than Pemberton Borough, and the amount of ratables in a town determines the contribution rate in a regional school district. Therefore, Pemberton Borough will end up paying considerably less per household in school taxes than the Township.
Frank Belluscio, spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, explains:
What the state’s really asking schools to do is regionalize, and with regionalization there is usually a change in tax apportionment where one side’s tax burden increases. That’s traditionally been the major obstacle and it may be up to the state to come up with a way to remove that disincentive.
In other words, when two districts consolidate, one or the other ends up paying higher taxes than before the merger. How to solve that inequity? Should the State offer incentives? Do we revise the ratables formula? Do taxpayers suck it up? We’ve got more questions than answers.