CHESTERFIELD, NJ -
A group of Chesterfield Township residents have started a Change.org petition to try to convince Municipal Officials to not raise taxes.
The online petition, which now has over 350 digital signatures, says, "We, the undersigned residents of Chesterfield would like to bring to your notice that we are extremely upset to receive a letter from the township’s office, increasing our property taxes... an average of $961- 1,171 dollars per house. We trust that this increase is unjustified.”
They say they are appalled to see their property taxes increase every year since 2013, even though a similar group urged to implement the plan back in 2012.
At this Thursday's Chesterfield Township Committee Meeting, Mayor Jeremy Liedtka says to allow the Municipal Government to run, it needs to request between a 0.26 and 0.29 tax rate. In 2012, Liedtka says he wanted to keep it at that number, but residents wanted to take advantage of a Gov. Christie plan. If the tax rate was below 0.1%, we would receive a surplus from the government. When the surplus ran out, we would slowly increase the tax rate to get us back to where we need to be.
Liedtka called that tax plan keeping taxes "artificially low." The township had around 1,200 homes in 2012; that has gone up to around 2,600. In 2008, there were 800 streetlights, now it is up to 1,100. The township does not pay for electricity based on a meter for those streetlights, but instead pays a monthly charge to PSE&G.
When challenged by residents on the tax increase, Mayor Liedtka said the increase is even less than was projected in 2012, and the budget in 2012 was $4.4 million. This year, it is $3.9 million.
The members of this "active residents" group want to make sure every effort has been made to reduce the burden on the taxpayers, so Liedtka says he could start a Budget Advisory Committee and will "open up the books and let [them] have a look."
The petition continues, “we do not understand how such increase is justifiable without increasing any of the basic services to the community. There is no decent public Library. There are no decent Park/Lake/recreation facilities. There is no senior citizen community assistance such as- Bus transportation to hospitals, markets or other entertainment centers. No summer camp activities for children.”
The name on the petition is Srinivas Naikoti, but in an email to WBNC News, Naikoti tells us many people helped write it, though he doesn't know the exact number, estimating around 15 to 20 people. We asked him why he said there was no decent library in the township as Crosswicks Library has been around for 199 years; they’ll be celebrating their bicentennial next year. He told us “Our point was to highlight that compared to other towns with similar tax rates, our town doesn't not [sic] have a library that matches the size”.
In fact, at the most recent Chesterfield Township Committee Meeting, another man supporting the petition, called it a 'Makeshift Library'. That didn't sit well with residents on social media, particularly one group: the Crosswicks Library.
They told us “One of the great challenges for the Crosswicks Library Company is that while Chesterfield Residents do indeed pay the Burlington County Library tax, the tax money does not fund the public library that is located within their town. We receive non-monetary support from the county such as computers, tech support, a small book subscription service and so on. Of course we take objection to being described as not decent. We have a long history of serving as a very special community library on scant resources. In addition, membership in BCLS enables library users to access materials from all locations, and to access programs at all locations.”
A main topic during the public comment portion of the committee meeting was the fact that only 9.39% of your overall taxes actually go to the municipal government. 72.65% of your taxes go to the local school systems (Chesterfield K-6, NBC 7-12). This is due, in part, to the fact that Chesterfield Elementary School is just 11% funded to where the government thinks it should be.
RELATED: INTERVIEW WITH ANDREA KATZ ABOUT SCHOOL FUNDING
Supporters of the petition also called the Township's fight against the Williams-Transco Pipeline and Compressor Station a "stupid litigation", and "sunk cost". They said of the $360,000 allotted for this year in litigious fees, if we win, we don't get that back, and if we lose, we don't get anything back either. Members of anti-pipeline groups call this view "uneducated."
Overall, what did the group get out of the petition? A promise of a Budget Advisory Committee when the Municipal Government starts talking budget, which is around February.
You can read the full petition here.
Updated 082816 11:41PM: The article originally said the municipal twp allotted $380,000 for 2017, but was corrected to read $360,000 for 2016.
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