Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What do Hackensack residents get for their high taxes?

Hackensack gives property tax payers a 10-day grace period, so 1st-quarter payments are due on Wednesday. When is the last time you saw a story -- any story -- about local property taxes in The Record of Woodland Park?


If you live in Hackensack, Teaneck, Englewood, Ridgewood or another community with a tax-exempt hospital, you are paying more for such services as police protection and garbage collection.

In fact, residents are subsidizing the non-profit medical complexes, and in Hackensack, that means the city is powerless to collect more than $10 million on $257 million in tax-exempt property.

And Hackensack residents also are saddled with tax-exempt property owned by Bergen County, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Eastwick College and others.

All of them add to the disproportionate financial burden carried by residential and commercial property owners -- higher taxes that have been totally ignored by the local editors at The Record of Woodland Park.

At the same time, it's unclear what, if anything, those non-profits have returned to the city in lieu of taxes.

$4.5M payment

On Jan. 26, the Hackensack City Council voted to approve a settlement of claims, "some going back decades," that requires Hackensack University Medical Center to pay $4.5 million over three years.

The agreement also includes "which properties owned by HUMC and/or affiliated entities shall remain taxable."

HUMC also will pay $200,000 annually for pedestrian-bridge air rights on Atlantic and Second streets dating to December 2009, officials said.

City services

I've lived in Hackensack since 2007, and I'm pretty happy with police and fire protection, and other city services, with the exception of sloppy snow plowing, which endangers drivers and pedestrians.

Street paving also seems to be hit and miss, with some blocks showing rough patches after being neglected for more than 30 years.

And the city's free-spending Board of Education has been a thorn in taxpayers' sides, operating this year on a $106 million budget that exceeds the city's own.

My school taxes are 44.13% of my total property tax bill.

Police report

In a year-end report, Hackensack police said they issued 6,981 moving violations, but I still see stop-sign runners almost every day, especially at Euclid Avenue and the railroad tracks, where there are four stop signs.

The report listed 2,048 accidents, two fatal, and 465 "hit & run."

"Both burglaries and robberies in 2014 and 2015 were reported to be the lowest in past 30 years," the report stated.

"The Police Department worked closely" with the [tax-exempt] county homeless shelter on South River Street "in addressing the concerns of the homeless."

The report was silent on whether HUMC has agreed to provide medical staff who could help police cut down on the large number of trips transporting homeless people from the shelter to the hospital's emergency room -- another story The Record has ignored.

Hackensack news?

Staff Writer Todd South didn't cover the Jan. 26 City Council meeting in Hackensack or the two meetings before that.

South, who has been promoted to the Bergen County government beat from his Hackensack duties, today reports on a regional high school poetry contest (L-1).

In today's thin Local section, you'll find municipal news from East Rutherford, Rutherford, Leonia, Waldwick and Rockleigh, but nothing from Hackensack.

A brief on L-3 today must make the 535 residents of Rockleigh feel really safe, and speaks volumes about how North Jersey is poorly served by the home-rule system of local government.

The borough's Fire Department has only two fire engines, so the council "is exploring" an agreement to "borrow" a vehicle in an emergency.

Staff Writer Marc Lightdale doesn't shed any light on whether the vehicle would be another firetruck.

Page 1

Editor Deirdre Sykes and Managing Editor Dan Sforza have been in their new positions for only 10 days, but their front-pages have been uniformly disappointing.

Today's is dominated by politics and sports -- again.

Sykes and Sforza still can't shake their old roles as local assignment editors who did their best to screw readers searching for news of their town.

Does anybody still read Columnist Charles Stile's almost daily assessment of Governor Christie's doomed campaign for the GOP presidential nomination (A-1)?

The CNN Poll of Polls is reporting Christie will be the choice of only 5% of New Hampshire Republican primary voters or seventh in the field of eight -- just above Dr. Ben Carson's 3%.

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