After mayor presses for tax dollar-saving measure, Meadowlands Commission releases report

SECAUCUS AND BEYOND – Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli believes his town pays an unfair amount of tax dollars as part of a longtime tax-sharing program to spread out the benefits of Meadowlands development. After repeatedly pushing for the state’s Meadowlands Commission to provide information since the spring, the agency on Wednesday agreed to release a report on tax sharing that was prepared by Dr. David Listokin.The inter-municipal tax sharing formula was evaluated by Dr. Listokin from the Institute for Meadowlands Studies at Rutgers University and his recommendations were provided to the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission in late April.
Through the state’s tax sharing program, started in the early 1970s, the towns in the Meadowlands region that are allowed to develop must pay into a tax pool so that other towns that can’t develop for environmental reasons can offset the loss of tax ratables. There are 14 towns in the Meadowlands district.
Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli, whose town is the highest contributor into the tax pool with 88 percent of the town in the district, has threatened to file a request through the Open Public Records for all of the emails, correspondence, invoices, phone logs, and information related to tax sharing if the commission did not release the report. He also said the town would pursue legal action if no action was taken because the formula is unconstitutional. The Secaucus municipality has also said the formula is unfair, antiquated, and serves as an economic disincentive.
“I don’t know why this information is kept secret,” said Gonnelli. “That information is paid for by public funds…it is public information.”
He asked the commission to put forth a resolution his administration had drafted to release copies to the District mayors.
After the commission met in closed session they determined that a vote on the resolution was not necessary and agreed to release the report.
“On behalf of all the mayors this will be a big plus for us,” said Gonnelli.
The report prepared by Dr. Listokin came at the request of Gov. Christopher Christie. Christie asked the NJMC to study potential changes in the tax sharing formula that would provide greater predictability and decrease volatility for municipalities in the taxing district, according to Lisa Ryan, public information officer for the NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA).
As it turns out, the report includes 20 different potential changes to the formula.
Gonnelli sent a letter to the governor dated July 6 “out of exasperation over the lack of progress with regard to fundamentally changing the tax sharing.”
For more on this issue, see this weekend’s Secaucus Reporter.

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