The 89 mostly rural communities which, for many years, have been patrolled by the New Jersey State Police will soon be denied that protection or forced to pay a total of $12 million to cover a portion of the costs.
This decision by the Corzine administration, supported by the Legislature, is extremely shortsighted, deeply harmful to the taxpayers of those communities, and should be challenged on constitutional grounds.
I have asked the State League of Municipalities to bring a legal action against the state seeking to overturn the decision to seek repayment and to reinstate the patrol duties at no cost to the communities involved.
I have also asked my mayoral colleagues and elected officials from the affected municipalities to join in my request to the League.
Forcing the taxpayers of the 89 municipalities to shoulder what amounts to a $12 million property tax increase is unconscionable. Most — if not all — of the communities involved are small and predominantly residential. The property taxpayers simply cannot afford the additional cost demanded by the state.
The choice being forced upon them is unacceptable: Either accept a punishing increase in property taxes or lose the vital public safety protection to which all citizens have a fundamental right.
The only alternative proposed so far has been a surcharge on fines for motor vehicle violations, the proceeds of which would be allocated to a fund to defray the cost of State Police patrols. The Governor?s office has already made it clear that it does not support the imposition of such a surcharge, thus making it unlikely if not impossible to secure legislative approval.
Moreover, while the proposal requires the funds collected be used to offset the cost of the patrols, any future Legislature could amend the language and divert the revenue to some other use at any time, leaving the 89 municipalities facing precisely the same economic dilemma the Administration has currently placed them in.
It is disappointing that a majority of the Legislature agreed with the Corzine Administration budget and failed to stand up on behalf of the people of small town New Jersey. The demand for reimbursement for State Police services, coupled with the decision to sharply reduce the amount of state aid to local governments, has created a strain on local resources so severe that many fear for the very survival of the state?s small communities.
A legal challenge brought by the League of Municipalities and supported by the membership of the organization is the most effective route to follow to resolve the issue.
I am hopeful the League will take up our cause and fight for the economic well being and public safety of the 89 municipalities who look to it for help.