SECAUCUS – After years of fighting to pay less into the Meadowlands inter-municipal tax-sharing program, Secaucus may see a significant reduction from paying $3 million to $723,504.
Members of the Hackensack Meadowlands Municipal Committee (HMMC) on Tuesday narrowly voted (7 to 3 plus 3 abstentions) to change the tax sharing formula’s base year from 1970 to 2004 – a change which Mayor Michael Gonnelli helped herald after major campaigning on the issue throughout the year. The amendment needs to be approved by the State Legislature and the Governor for it to take effect.
Through the state’s tax sharing program, started in the early 1970s, the towns in the Meadowlands region that are allowed to develop must pay into a tax pool so that other towns that can’t develop for environmental reasons can offset the loss of tax ratables. There are 14 towns in the Meadowlands district. In 2004, the master plan for the Meadowlands changed and areas that were once slated for development became parks while other areas that were restricted from development became available.
The change in the tax sharing formula base year would mean a dramatic change for Kearny, which would go from receiving close to $4 million to paying over $270,000.
“From 2004 till now [Kearny] had development,” said Gonnelli. “They are starting to develop those landfills.”
The move to change the base year passed 7 to 3 with 3 abstentions. Gonnelli said that while he understands a town like Kearny, that voted against the measure, would never agree to become a payer instead of a receiver he believes that most agreed it was time for a change.
Gonnelli said in an interview that the abstentions will be counted with the majority vote in the affirmative.
While the amendment to the formula must pass the New Jersey State Legislature, Gonnelli is hopeful that the change will take effect next year if Governor Chris Christie gets behind the measure. He said during an interview that Commissioner Richard Constable had promised the Governor would support the change in the tax-sharing base year if such an amendment was approved by the mayors’ committee.
“Commissioner Constable said that if we got a majority of the mayors to agree to the change he would get the governor to support the change,” said Gonnelli. He said he is following up with Constable in this regard to take him on his word.