Assemblyman Michael Doherty said a report in which the state is forcing Hamilton Township residents to accept a school budget they rejected Tuesday, because they felt township officials could provide a budget with more of a property tax cut, is alarming and underscores the need to revise Governor Jon Corzine’s new school funding formula.

“We are definitely seeing an alarming pattern emerging in which the state is forcing its will on township officials and residents in regards to their school budgets and property taxes because of this obviously flawed new funding formula,” stated Doherty. “Hamilton Township is yet another town that wanted to lower property taxes but was told by the state ‘sorry, no can do.’ That is absolutely absurd especially in a state where residents are leaving in record numbers due to the unbearably high cost of living.

“Here we have another municipality where its public officials are working hard to keep spending down in order to keep property taxes in check and the state, which was supposed to reform the system, has instead become the major obstacle,” he continued. “Essentially, Governor Corzine is telling towns they have no right to control their costs. They are free to vote for budgets that call for an increase in spending, but are prohibited to vote for a decrease.”

According to an article in the Trentonian, Hamilton Township voters rejected the township’s school budget on Tuesday. Even though the budget called for a two-cent decrease in the school tax rate, taxpayers apparently believe the budget could be cut further. The state Department of Education (DOE), however, told township council members the $170 million budget provides for the minimum amount of spending that is permitted under law as per the new state school funding formula to operate the school district.

Doherty, R-Warren and Hunterdon, noted similar situations in Hunterdon County and Cape May where the school districts there wanted to reduce expenditures but were also told by the state it could not because the Corzine Administration’s new school funding formula creates a figure, based on property values and income levels of residents of what each municipality can supposedly pay for education.

Doherty pointed out that the DOE ruling in Hamilton sets a dangerous precedent as it completely ignores the will of the people.

“What happened to government by the people and for the people?” asked Doherty. “Voting is a basic American right and this week the state of New Jersey told Hamilton citizens ‘sure you can vote, but it means nothing.’ That’s a heck of a message to send to your residents.

“When Governor Corzine revealed the details of this new funding formula Assembly Republicans repeatedly warned it was inequitable and constitutionally flawed. How much more evidence does he need? This governor and his ruling party owe it to the good taxpayers of this state to go back to the drawing board and return with an equitable formula that gives back to residents the power of the vote and doesn’t punish municipalities for efficient operation of their governments.”


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