There has been some debate over the compensation for police and firefighter
since Governor Christie took office. We have heard how they are lazy and
greedy and during a demonstration Governor Christie actually said the public
safety community is a "me first" group. First of all, as a police officer
for 23 years, I resent the fact that an elected official and our leader
demonize the very people who are here to protect him and our fellow
The town and people I work for has 8,867 properties. If you take the entire
2010 police budget for the town, $5,326,594.67, which includes all salaries,
overtime, pension payments and healthcare and apply a little mathematics, a
property owner in my town pays approx. $600.72 a year or $1.64 a day for
police protection. Let's see what cost more than $1.64 a day.
The average cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts is $2 and if you really want to
splurge you can get an average cup of coffee at Starbucks for $3. The
average homeowners insurance is $1.70 a day, however; I would suspect this
will increase as fire departments and police departments continue to reduce
their staff. The average cell phone bill is $73 a month or $2.40 a day. If
you have more than one phone or a family plan, that increases drastically;
so the average family of four with cell phones, depending on features, pays
approx. $6 a day. Cable bills, with all the extras average approx. $6 a
day. Moreover, the average per capita income tax bill in NJ is $4,814 or
$13.18 per day, according to TaxFoundation.org. As we have been learning,
not all the money you send to Trenton makes it back to your community. But,
100% of our $1.64 a day for police protection stays within our community. .
Many people may look at this as, "I don't use the police, why should I pay?"
I agree there are many things out there which our taxes pay for that we
don't get to use or agree with. Many of us will never step foot in the
White House or the Governor's Mansion. I will never drive a tank or fly a
fighter jet. I probably will never skipper a battle ship or engineer a
locomotive or fly on Air Force One. As for police, you may never have a
use for their services, but it is nice knowing they are there if needed and
the very fact they are there is a protection. I read an article the other
day that Camden, NJ has had a 19% rise in violent crime since they laid off
half their police force. How long do you think this crime will take to get
to your neighborhood when police from all over the state are being laid off?
So what does this have to do with the "me first" statement. Consider this,
you decide as a community to lay off half your police department for a cost
savings. You now are billed 82 cents a day bill for police protection. No
matter how you feel about police, whether or not you think they should be
paid a decent wage, health benefits and whatever other rhetoric is spewed,
there is no real savings. The pension system is paid by the town along with
the individual officer, so there is no real savings in the pension. So why
the push to demonize the police and fire by our Governor; the "me first"
attitude? This argument makes no sense when you look at the facts. So why
is he doing this, I can only speculate, but it appears he likes the
spotlight. It appears he likes the controversy and it appears he wants to
move on in politics. It's "me first" when it comes to his future. And
believe me, there is going to be a big let down when the citizens finally
realize there is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Well, unless
$300 a year savings for half the protection is a pot of gold!
I challenge this governor to actually reduce the cost of property tax by
reducing that which costs the most, education! Before I go any further, I
want it to be clear, in no way am I demonizing the thousands of dedicated
teachers in this state, nor am I calling them greedy and lazy, no matter
what others may say! But we all have to understand the system of funding
education with property taxes is antiquated and broken. We need to find a
bigger stream of revenue, which, we all have to pay. I see only one way,
there needs to be a sales tax dedicated to education. Whether this sales
tax is to fund the system completely or to subsidize to reduce property
taxes, it needs to be done. Real savings is only going to come from
reducing the most expensive part of our property tax, education. Presently
our governor, who is advocating reducing the police and fire pension,
reducing benefits and reducing salaries equates to a father telling his
family we need to drastically reduce our household expenses by eliminating a
$2 a week allowance. There is no real savings, yet there will be real
consequences. Short term thinking is the reason why we see this increase in
crime. Let's not forget the fire departments either; what if they aren't
available to respond? Look no further than Springfield, NJ.
The regionalization argument, are you kidding me? Look no further than
north western NJ. The state police have been patrolling this area for
years. Check on their response time? It will not and cannot work in police
work. There are far too many miles to cover, over hundreds of square miles,
by a handful of dedicated officers given a task they cannot possibly perform
efficiently. Regionalization will reduce the amount of officers, increase
their coverage area and increase their response time. One dimensional
thinking will say "I don't care"; until someone is making you a victim or
you're having chest pains. Then I wonder what you would think. I suggest
you by an oxygen tank and a gun.
According to the NJ treasury Department, the present breakdown of property
taxes statewide is 53% for education, 26% municipal and 21% county. In
Morris County, where I work and live breaks down to 60% for education, 27%
for municipal and 13% for county. Let's look at the real numbers in Morris
County where, according to the Star Ledger, the average property tax bill is
approx $8900 a year. Education would cost $5340, Municipal taxes would cost,
$2403, and the county tax would be $1157. Using my towns police budget as a
guide, 32% of the municipal budget goes to police salaries, pension,
healthcare, and overtime. The grand total in raw numbers is $768 a year or
about $2 a day for police protection. (It is actually lower in half the
communities when using an average.) According to city-data.com, the average
median household income in Morris County is $96,787 a year or around $46
dollars an hour. Assuming January 1 falls on a Saturday, the average
household in Morris County NJ will pay off their police department's tax
burden before their first coffee break on Wednesday January 5! Compare this
to the overall average tax burden date which is April 25; this according to
the NJ Treasury Department. And to go a little further, the Star Ledger
reports the average municipal police salary is approx. 90,000 a year.
Multiply this by their pension payments, 8.5%, the average pension payment
is $7650 a year, plus 1.5% for healthcare as of right now, equates to an
additional $1350 a year making pension and healthcare payments $9000 or 10%,
costing the average municipal police officer $24 a day for pension and
healthcare. So the cost, $2 a day for the average citizen for the police
department and $24 a day for the average police officer to keep the current
level of healthcare and benefits. Going even further, some police, like
myself, pay social security, at the current average salary that equates to
an additional $5850 a year or an additional $16 a day bringing my total to
$40 a day for my "future". Having the police pay 30% of their healthcare
cost will lower the burden on property taxes 6 cents a day; however increase
the cost to the officer an additional $14 a day. I understand the jealousy
and frustration factor, especially for those who are out of work but this
Governor is playing on this frustration and fear. When you actually look at
the raw numbers, there is no savings!
We can eliminate police departments altogether, but we will find no savings
there either; Stillwater NJ eliminated its department in 2009 and after
doing so, saw a $200 increase in their property tax bill?
I am actually surprised, a conservative, republican and with the endorsement
of the Tea Party, Governor Christie has not come up with this plan earlier.
These groups have been advocating a sales tax for years. They seem to
believe, along with me and many I speak to, a sales tax is the only way to
get everyone to "share the sacrifice" and pay "their fare share", yet we've
heard none of this from our leader.
I may be wrong, but until someone comes up with a better idea, I will
challenge them when they spew their rhetoric. Reducing public employees'
wages to that of 20 years ago, taking away their pensions and benefits may
make everyone feel better and have the illusion of real savings, but when
the dust settles, there will be no real savings. Just disappointment. But
by then our leader may already be on his next "adventure".
Reducing property taxes and replacing it with a sales tax has one other
advantage, property values will increase. Many say a sales tax will destroy
business and industry in this state, well I challenge you; did you travel to
the urban districts to buy your high end goods to save on your sales tax?
The average home owner in Morris County, NJ will save over $445 a month or
just over $5000 a year. You will need to spend $250,000 a year before you
start to lose money if the sales tax increases 2%.
Let's try it, if it doesn't work, we can always go back to the broken way.
I challenge anyone in Trenton to come up with a better way, other than
demonizing the very people here to protect you. A sales tax guarantees that
all people in this state pay their "fare Share" and "share the sacrifice"!
I recently heard the a state official say that if there is no reform to the
pension system, and I am sure he means the Public Employees Retirement
System (PERS) and not the Police Fire Retirement System (PFRS), the burden
will be 1 billion dollars. In comparison, that equal $50 a year for each
citizen, the 2% income tax reduction on millionaires equates to over $50 a
day for someone earning a million a year. Now, don't get me wrong, I think
tax breaks are needed and people should pay less, but those decreases should
be where the highest burden lies, and not according to someone's agenda!
"We need to tighten our belts", please, $768 a year per property owner in
Morris County to keep the municipal police at current levels, I can't see
being leaner than that!