Are Taxes Driving People Out of Fair Lawn? [Poll]
Council members discussed Tuesday whether Fair Lawn's taxes were specific to the municipality or a symptom of high taxes across the board in New Jersey.
The combination of a 4 percent tax increase in this year's budget and a town-wide reassessment that pushed select residents' taxes still higher, has caused some taxpayers to question whether they can continue to afford to live in Fair Lawn.
One particularly incensed man who spoke at Tuesday's budget adoption meeting asked the council whether it realized that some Fair Lawn residents can no longer afford to pay their taxes. Complaints from residents who bemoan the fact that high taxes will soon drive them out of town have become commonplace at recent meetings.
Since his council campaign last year, Kurt Peluso, who did not vote to adopt the budget Tuesday, has been a vocal advocate of limiting property taxes so that families in financially tenuous situations can remain in the borough.
“Raising my own family here is very expensive,” said Peluso, 29, prior to his election last year. “My wife and I both work full-time and part-time jobs just to make ends meet, and I know a lot of other families have the same struggles."
When explaining his "no" vote on the budget, Peluso repeatedly has harkened back to his experience campaigning last year and some of the struggling residents he encountered.
"Going through the last election cycle and going door-to-door, I came across many people with "For Sale" signs on their doors," he said Tuesday, before proceeding to tell the story of one individual whom he said had lived in town for 40 years but was forced to move out last year because of taxes.
"He moved to Wall Township where the taxes were cut in half and he was getting a larger house," Peluso said. "He did not want to leave but felt that he was forced out."
Deputy Mayor Ed Trawinski, who supported the budget Tuesday while acknowledging that taxes were high and would likely force him to move after he retired, said it was not Fair Lawn, specifically, but rather New Jersey as a whole that levies greater taxes than surrounding states.
"I've heard people say that they're moving out of town because of the tax increases, and I ask them where they're going to go?" Trawinski said. "Typically they say they're going to go out of New Jersey."
A survey on American migration patterns that full-service moving company United Van Lines has conducted annualy for the past 35 years supports Trawinksi's claim.
Trawinski said that while some people are leaving Fair Lawn, he believes just as many are moving into town specifically for its amenities.
"I personally know in the last year of two famiiles that moved to Fair Lawn, knowing what our taxes are, because they wanted to have the advantage of the Fair Lawn school system and Memorial Pool," he said. "As many people are moving out, younger families are moving in because of the school system."
Schools Superintendent Bruce Watson said district enrollment can fluctuate, going in peaks and valleys, but that over the past few years elementary school enrollment in Fair Lawn has been stable, with total school district's enrollment dipping ever so slightly.
Going forward, however, he said he expects to see a wave of growth throughout the system, starting with the elementary levels.
"There are a lot of young families moving in," Watson said. "Last year and this year, we have had an increase in our elementary enrollment."
Part of that, Watson said, is due to a change in the size and type of families moving into Fair Lawn.
"We have a tendency of larger families coming to us from places like the Dominican Republic, Queens and Washington Heights," he said. "They're coming to Fair Lawn because it's an affordable community compared to...many others nearby."
The most recent available census data on municipal migration rates in New Jersey supports the argument that the number of people moving in and moving out of Fair Lawn has remained relatively stable. Between 2005 and 2009, 8.4 percent of residents moved into Fair Lawn and 7.5 percent of residents moved out.
The migratory split compares favorably to other nearby municipalities like Glen Rock and Elmwood Park that saw a much larger split between the percentage of people leaving town and those moving in.
Census data on municipal migration in New Jersey from 2005-2009:
|Moving in||Moving out||Difference|
Of the people who moved into Fair Lawn from 2005 to 2009:
- 22.7% moved from another state
- 47.9% moved from another county
- 16.2% moved from Bergen county
- 13.2% moved from another country
Of the people who moved out of Fair Lawn frmo 2005 to 2009:
- 28.5% moved to another state
- 53.4% moved to another county
- 18.1% moved to another town in Bergen County