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Letter to the Editor: Selling Public Land Will Raise Taxes Too

Resident Linda Wood writes to say that land sales can potentially lead to higher education costs for taxpayers.

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.

Sincerely,

Linda Wood

Robert Way February 12, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Linda, I am going to have to cautiously disagree with your assessment of adding children to the school system and its impact on the school budget as you propose. While I agree that adding residential ratables has an inevitable additional burden on the school system, the math is not as simple as looking at our current per pupil cost and multiplying it by the number of net new students in The District. The simplest example would be to add a single student to the system, that child would not automatically add $13k (actually about $15k according to the 2011-2012 budget) to District expenses. That child would easily be absorbed by the existing staff and services that are already budgeted for nor would he/she create additional staff/expense the next school year (assuming extensive special needs weren't part of the equation). Now, if you were to dump 200 new kids into 5th grade in one shot then I would agree that would have an immediate impact on resources requiring additional staff and potentially other services that would cause the budget to increase more so than normal but it is still not simple math represented by 200 kids multiplied by the published cost per pupil. Based on data provided by the NJDOE Report Card, school enrollment has dropped by 200 students from the 2006/07 through 2009/10 school years but the School Tax levy has gone up 8.6% or over $3.9M during that same time. The data just doesn't support your claim or Mr. Katz's anecdotal comments.
Jeff Rossi February 12, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Math aside, the concepts and long term impacts are right on. I agree with Linda's assessment and assertions.
Jennifer February 12, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Another consideration besides the simple added costs is the size of each school's student population. I think Holmdel is fortunate to be geographically small enough to have all students attend the same elementary, middle and high schools. Having several schools serving the same grades as in Middletown confuses and artificially skews property values, as the reputation of some schools carries a weight that the actual test scores do not bear out. There is always suspicion, also, that some schools receive a bigger price of the budgetary pie, have better facilities, etc. So there are advantages to having only one school for each grade level. However, there is a point at which schools become too big. 1,000 students per school is about the maximum you want to have at the lower grade levels. With 275 kids in his grade, my son never had more than 2 of the same kids in his class from year to year. It takes a long time to build a sense of community among the students when they mostly know each other from out-of-school activities. It is ridiculous but true that as young as second grade, " the cheerleaders" and " the football players" are already established and powerful groups.
Jeff R February 12, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Established and powerful groups? Not sure what that means exactly. I would say, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, math league, scouts, surfers/skateboarders, kids who like to cook, and motocross kids are much, much more powerful than cheer and football. And the video gamers are the most supreme all-powerful. Just my opinion.
Jennifer February 13, 2012 at 12:25 AM
My point was, the schools are as larger as they should be without breaking up into smaller , duplicate schools, which would be very expensive and bad for the towns solidarity.
Jeff R February 13, 2012 at 01:18 AM
So there was "a" girl who had behavioral problems who happened to be a cheerleader. Maybe I'm a bit sensitive to your example since my daughter is a cheerleader and doesn't resemble your experience at all. I do hear what you're saying about the about school size. Circling back to Linda's point, anything that causes us to have to grow the school system significantly is a bad strategy.
Jennifer February 13, 2012 at 03:48 AM
I was tempted to delete my previous comments because the I wasn't trying to mke a pop Warner point, and it really is kind of irrelevant but now I guess I will leave it so your answer doesn't just hang there. no offense, I know a lot of kids participate and great for them, they have friends inlplace. It is just hard with the size of the school, for Many of the younger kids to develop a group until Indian hill,
Jennifer February 13, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Which is sad, and I can't imagine how it could be if we had to increase the number of kids in each grade. That was my main point.
Pam February 13, 2012 at 12:27 PM
I agree with Linda that our Mayor should not dismiss budget cuts; I also agree that the residents should have a voice in it. I would rather see a four day work week, and less services, for several years instead of selling off irreplaceable land or raising taxes. It is irresponsible of our tc to so easily give up on budget cuts as a solution.
Penny Towey February 13, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Please, let's remember the context of this potential land sale and the subsequent impact on our schools. It is apparent that the TC is willing to allow substantial housing on the Alcatel-Lucent tract (either within or without of the building), and the status of open land at the Garden State Arts Center remains unclear. Their are many empty-nesters in our community whose homes, when sold, will result in additional children. The perfect storm awaiting Holmdel is when the economy improves after the township has bowed to housing development. Schools are on the precipice of what could be tremendous growth, which would most definitely raise our taxes. The TC must refocus on cost reductions and new ways of doing business. Existing policies must be changed, rules revamped, and priorities refocused on maximizing strategic services while reducing non-essential infrastructure expenses or re-allocating them to those who do not directly perform a public service to Holmdel taxpayers. We simply cannot afford to perpetuate failed strategies and ways of doing business. It is not in the taxpayers interest, or in the interest of those wishing to protect property values -- which are a direct result of our rural character, great schools, and location.
Jennifer February 13, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Like, like, like Penny

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