09 January 2010

"Suburban Solution" - Urban Problem

Hillsborough's own Jack Ciattarelli, sworn in Friday as Somerset County Freeholder Director, unveiled his "suburban solution" - a model for county government in New Jersey. Key aspects of the plan are a renewed effort to consolidate municipal and county services, and reallocation of budget funds to maintain essential services without raising taxes.

Calling this plan the "suburban solution" begs the question, what is the problem? On the most basic level, the problem is the lack of funds needed to provide all of the services the county would hope to offer - and the inability to raise those funds through taxes.

On a deeper level, this shouldn't be a problem at all. Somerset, statistically, is one of the wealthier counties in New Jersey. High residential and commercial property values generate good property tax income, and our residents both earn and spend considerable amounts, generating significant income tax and sales tax receipts.

The real problem is that much of what county residents pay in income and sales tax does not stay in our county. It is redistributed by Trenton to urban school districts that pay only a tiny percentage of their own costs, and to the big cities in the form of extraordinary aid.

Our cities and urban areas should be the economic engines of our state, instead of being the leeches that drain the suburbs of their wealth. Too long have the suburbs been the solution to the cities' problems - it's probably time to turn that formula on its head.

Yet, until that happens, I applaud Mr. Ciattarelli for his plan to devote one of the last remaining resources Trenton has not stolen, our ingenuity, to solving the solvency problem.

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