Sunday, May 8, 2016

Editors taking a rare, superficial look at local property taxes

The payment stub for the Hackensack property taxes I paid in February, above, and the check and stub I will hand deliver to City Hall on Tuesday, below. The May 1 deadline for quarterly tax payments by home and business owners is extended to the 10th of the month. The sting of my latest quarterly payment is reduced by a $1,000 Homestead Credit.


You wouldn't know from today's edition of The Record that tens of thousands of North Jersey residents are bitching and moaning as they scramble to pay their quarterly property taxes this week.

None of that worry, concern or protest is communicated in today's Real Estate cover story -- in a section that normally celebrates the joys of home ownership, and ignores the greed of home builders, banks and Realtors.

Hints at reality

In the second paragraph, a man who "took a hard look at the property tax bills in different towns" is quoted as saying:

"I understand that some people can pay $20,000 or more a year in taxes on their home" (R-1).

Brother, you could have said "$30,000 or more" and come closer to the reality.

Why cite 'median'?

In fact, the use of "median" property taxes in the text and the graphic on R-3 is the most deceptive part of this surprisingly superficial report by one of the paper's veteran reporters.

In this case, I understand Staff Writer Kathleen Lynn to mean half of the property tax payments are below the median of $9,800 in Bergen County and $9,100 in Passaic County, and half are above.

Way above, I would think, with payments of more than $30,000 and $40,000 a year not uncommon in Teaneck, Wayne and other towns.

Hackensack, Englewood

I pay more than twice the Hackensack median property tax of $8,166 listed on R-3, and I'm sure I am not alone.

Yet, two of the city's elementary schools are failing, the streets are in terrible shape, and officials are trying to revive a Main Street that withered and died years ago.

Ridgewood, Ramsey, Glen Rock and Rutherford are mentioned as towns "with higher taxes [that] come with more appeal," including highly rated school systems, a commuter train station and "a charming, pedestrian friendly downtown with shops and restaurants" (R-1).

But Lynn doesn't mention Englewood, where taxes are unusually high despite all those ratables from an industrial section, numerous multi-million dollar mansions and hundreds of new apartments.

Yet, Englewood's elementary and middle schools have few white students, and the city can boast only of having a pleasant downtown, though it's often choked with traffic because officials refuse to replace parking meters with turn lanes at heavily traveled intersections.

Homestead, Senior Freeze

Finally, I see nothing in Lynn's story about the state's Homestead Credit or so-called Senior Freeze, two programs that can reduce a homeowner's property taxes.

Have those programs been affected by Governor Christie's policies, especially his voodoo budgeting? 

Readers have no clue.


Until I read Mike Kelly's Page 1 column today, I knew one of my fellow volunteers at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center only as "Ryan" (A-1).

Yes. I was familiar with Ryan Brummond's combat experience as an Army Green Beret, and I applauded his being selected to address his fellow pre-med graduates at Columbia University.

But I feel Kelly could have focused more on the hoops this veteran of seven deployments had to jump through to obtain health insurance for his wife and children, and how that has obligated him to go back to Afghanistan in June in a combat role.

As a nation, we should be ashamed of how we've mistreated our returning veterans since at least the Vietnam War.

Hackensack news?

Hackensack may be Bergen's most populous community, but the city didn't rate a mention in the text of Lynn's property tax story on the Real Estate front or in today's local-news section.

Even Road Warrior John Cichowski ignores the sorry Anderson Street Bridge to Teaneck in his column on bridge-repair delays in Bergen County (L-1).

Cichowski, who took over the so-called commuting column more than a dozen years ago, has been allowed to devolve into the pothole, pavement, street and bridge reporter -- with a minor in teen drivers.

2nd Kelly column

Kelly has a second column on the Opinion front today.

But many readers don't agree that the president can fix what he calls "an economy weighted down by stagnant wages, outsourced jobs and the hyper pick-up-and-move business strategies of what once were New Jersey's most stable industries, starting with pharmaceuticals" (O-1).

Aren't all of those problems caused by companies seeking bigger profits?

And supporters of Donald Trump aren't rallying around his slogan, "Make America Great." 

They are hoping to "Make America White Again."

Indeed, as a racist and white supremacist, the billionaire is tapping into all of the resentment that has festered since the election of our first black president in 2008.

Whitman on Trump

Christine Todd Whitman wasn't a great New Jersey governor, but this Republican isn't mincing words in retirement.

Today, her Opinion column on O-1 serves as a counterpoint to Kelly's mindless promotion of Trump:

"Donald Trump is simply unfit to be president. We have all seen his bullying, misogyny and provoking of racial hatred."

Whitman, who won't be "uniting behind Trump," calls for his defeat to salvage the Republican Party.

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