The payment represents the town’s annual contribution to the Meadowlands District as part of a tax-sharing formula created in 1972.
New Jersey first created the controversial tax-sharing formula to compensate the region’s municipalities that were barred from developing environmentally sensitive parts of the Meadowlands. The program enables all Meadowlands District towns to benefit from regional growth and ratables.
As a town that had ample development and lucrative ratables, Secaucus was among seven municipalities that were required to pay into the Meadowlands tax sharing pool.
North Bergen, Carlstadt, Lyndhurst, Moonachie, Little Ferry, and South Hackensack are the other municipalities that contribute.
Jersey City, Kearny, Rutherford, North Arlington, Ridgefield, and East Rutherford receive money from the pool.
Since 1973, Secaucus has paid more than $68 million to the Meadowlands region, according to town officials, and the town is the district’s largest financial contributor.
In recent years Mayor Gonnelli – and his predecessors, Richard Steffens and Dennis Elwell – have lobbied state senators and assembly representatives to have the tax-sharing abolished.
Both state Sen. Paul Sarlo and Assemblyman Vincent Prieto have sponsored pieces of legislation that would end the regional tax-sharing formula.
“Everybody in this part of the state knows about tax-sharing and they understand our arguments. But if you drive just an hour away, legislators in other parts of the state don’t know anything about tax-sharing,” Gonnelli said Tuesday. “It’s not a priority for them. So, we need to find some ways to educate them and bring better awareness to our concerns.”
Gonnelli said the Meadowlands District Mayors’ Committee has endorsed the town’s decision to withhold its tax sharing payments to the state, which he described as a “protest.” He added that it’s his understanding that other municipalities that also pay into the tax-sharing pool will also withhold their May 1 payments.
Gonnelli admitted that the town “might not be able to do this [protest] legally,” and Town Attorney Michael Witt said Tuesday the state could impose fines or penalties on Secaucus for failure to pay the tax.
For more about the town’s tax protest, see this weekend’s edition of the Secaucus Reporter. – E. Assata Wright