Lakewood: Plan calls for a 10% tax hike


taxes.jpgThe following article appeared in todays Asbury Park Press: Township residents face a more than 10 percent property tax increase in the proposed 2007 municipal budget, a hike that officials blame on the aftermath of the property revaluation coupled with a stagnant economy. If adopted, the $62.9 million budget will increase the tax rate from 41.1 cents to 45.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

To resident Dan Chaskin, 60, that 10.7 percent jump “seems excessive,” especially when compared to the school budget, which despite being much larger is only seeing a 3.8 percent tax rate increase.

Township officials point to two factors accounting for about half the increase that the Board of Education doesn’t have to deal with.

One stems from the wave of appeals filed by residents after the property revaluation in 2005. The revaluation dropped the total tax rate from $3.549 per $100 of assessed property value to $1.559. Committeeman Charles Cunliffe said the town received 1,800 appeals last year and 1,000 more this year, forcing it to pad the budget with another million dollars to cover costs of appeals that might succeed.

It remains unclear how many, if any, appeals have succeeded. The filing date this year was in April, so all appeals have likely not been resolved yet, according to Cunliffe.

“If we lose any of them we have to have the money to back it,” he said.

The second culprit in the tax hike is a downturn in the economy, which officials say has caused a 1.56 percent drop from last year in number of people who paid their taxes. This then has driven the reserve for uncollected taxes up from $4.35 million in 2006 to $5.47 million in the proposed budget.

As Cunliffe again explained: “The township can never take the chance to be underfunded.”

The other half of the 10 percent tax hike can be attributed to higher insurance, utility, fuel and landfill disposal costs, which have added a couple hundred thousand dollars to expenses, said Frank Edwards, the township manager.

A final blow comes from the additional $688,000 the town has to pay this year as the state shifts another 20 percent of pension costs to municipalities, Edwards said.

Lakewood is now footing 80 percent of that bill when five years ago the township paid nothing.

The added expenses are compounded by a drastic hit the township’s surplus has taken due to the struggling economy and real estate market, Cunliffe said.

Yet the money in these coffers is exactly what resident Al Fisher thinks should be utilized more in lieu of raising taxes.

“They have $18 million in there. The fact that they don’t use that just because it’sbackup, that’s not right,” 73-year-old Fisher said, calling himself an outspoken critic of the municipality.

Edwards said the number was actually about $9.9 million as of the end of 2006, $7.5 million of which is being appropriated in the proposed 2007 budget. There is no “rule of thumb” for deciding how much to keep in surplus, just “whatever the township and auditor feel comfortable with” in terms of emergency spending, Edwards said.

Cunliffe predicted it could take another two to three years before residents start to see a decrease, or at least a leveling off, of the tax rate.

“I don’t think next year the increase will be as dramatic as the appeals begin to tail off,” he said.

Still, the committeeman stressed the need to re-examine employee benefits costs and labor union contracts, especially given the state’s new budget law July 1 that puts a much firmer cap on property tax increases.

As of now, the 4 percent cap is flexible enough to allow municipalities such as Lakewood to get away with higher tax rates.

The township’s handful of unions currently require in their contracts about a 3.6 percent annual rate increase.

“We don’t want to lay people off so we have to do something about these contracts,” Cunliffe said. “It’s going to get to the point where we reach an impasse with the unions.”


  1. THIS IS LUDICROUS!! What happed to our 20% tax cut and rebate from Governor Corzine?? (did that fly out the window with him during his car accident??!!)

    Whose pocketing all the townships $$?? Something just doesn’t smell right!!
    Cunliffe should have been recalled, and so should some of the others!! The corruption is obvious here!!

    BTW: Most of Lakewood is going to private schools, so why such a huge school budget??

  2. To All Lakewood Residence,

    Lets not all go like little sheep and keep quiet. Let’s all go together and say loud and clear NO TO ANY TAX HIKES! If we keep quiet we will all be paying like little “tateles”.

  3. In Passaic we get 11% tax increases every year and they tell us, “you should thank us that we didn’t approve the 17% tax increase plan!”

  4. tostien: So? That makes it okay? Why don’t you repeat what YB said for Passaic instead? Follow the lead of your neighbors who are now fighting the proposed alternate side towing extensions and do the same for taxes.

    By the way, the reason counties in NJ raise taxes every year is to keep up with increased budgets which are mostly due to salary increases. The police and fire departments get an average of 5% increase every year. Do you or I get that? Certainly the kollelmen in Lakewood don’t!

  5. A bunch of rubbish. There are 100s of new houses in Lakewood buing occupied annually, I’m sure at a much higher rate than most places in the country. (Who has a higher population growth than us and the mexicans?)

    Also, I for one, appealed my tax assesment, won my appeal, AND MY TAXES STILL WENT UP!!!!! So this buisness of “OY THOSE HORRIBLE APPEALS, THEY ARE HURTING EVERYONE ELSE” is SHEKER VECHAZAV!
    It is just another case of blaiming others for their own stupidity and greed.

    Its time to get out and protest.

  6. if the flipping would stop and the speculators would stop driving prices up property would hold a their true value (cow town farm Lakewood) then you wouldn’t have this problem, so now your becoming Monsey not stam a yeshiva town where you cant even drive a yeshivishe car so get a job pay taxes and be happy to be an American


  8. mowshe, sorry about that, I didn’t realize how nasty my last post was, until I saw it posted. Truthfully, many of your points are well taken, (especialy the latter ones about the stigma to drive a yeshivishe car [or house]), I was just trying to get the other points you made. 🙂

  9. The real estate market in Lakewood is out of control. The town was picked outside of the “CITY” so affordable housing can be made available to those deserving kolel family’s without making their parents sell their kidneys. The tax issue is based on value, if the gamblers would go to AC instead of buying houses and waiting for the next pregnant kollel wife to cry to her parents that there is no room in her apartment and the gambler or lets call them the speculators push the price to financially rape the shver then the value would be real not flatbush/boropark/teneck/manahttan prices. The bottom line is Lakewood is not a yeshiva community anymore it’s a town that has a big yeshiva in it. If there is a vaad they should cap the prices on the housing the way they should on Mataza Esrogim etc…. kol tov coffekup
    ps. we need spell check this is the yeshiva world we never received a real education

  10. While speculators do drive up prices, they don’t really affect the tax burden. Before the revaluation, the tax rate was somewhere about 0.035. It has now gone down to 0.0156 or thereabouts because the revaluation just about doubled property values. This has hurt people who owned older homes who were paying 0.035 on properties that were evaluated 30 years ago at less than half of what their value is now, but it has helped people who owned newer homes and were paying 0.035 on higher values. The actual dollar amount raised, however, remained basically the same.