Mayor Impreveduto’s position that Holmdel should decide between raising taxes and selling public land to close the annual $2.5 – 3m budget gap is really one in the same choice: more (town) taxes vs. more (school) taxes.
Though the Township Committee is now saying that the only sales under consideration are two to four properties on Plum Lane and 10 to 12 acres at Cross Farm, they have already tipped their hand that they expect to use land sales (100 acres at Cross Farm, Bayonet Farm or any other town land) to close the budget gap until the economic situation changes (in three to five years).
This means $7.5 million to $15 million in land sales. The majority of that will be for homes, and with that comes children who will be attending the schools.
At an average sale price of $100,000 per acre, two children per home, and an annual education cost of $13,000 per student, that could mean $2 million to $4 million in increased school taxes each year to educate the increased student population. Township Administrator Andy Katz agreed at the Feb. 2 meeting that public land sales for housing would have a negative impact on the school budget.
The sale of public land may close the town’s budget gap, but at the expense of the school budget. Either way, tax payers will be paying more.
If the town council wants to offer a REAL choice, then the choice should be between higher taxes or cutting the budget. Why has Mayor Impreveduto shut down any consideration of budget cuts, dismissing them as “impossible”?
Budget cuts may mean a reduction in services, but shouldn’t that choice be for the citizens of Holmdel to decide? He did not have the vision to see this budget shortfall coming, even as Lucent reduced staff steadily since 2001 and eventually closed their building, housing valuations dropped steadily over the past 4 years, and the state reduced funding. Why should we trust that the budget cannot be reduced by 10-12% to close this gap?
The fact is, this is not a “perfect storm,” but rather a five-year trend which the Township Committee has not confronted head-on. With this trend continuing for another three to five years (or more), it is time for the township to learn how to live within its means, and let the voters decide if those cuts should be lessened (or eliminated) with a tax increase. Selling public land doesn’t solve this problem, and only guarantees higher school taxes for many years to come.