Local politicians engaged the residents of the Four Seasons community at Galloway in discussion regarding the controversial “PILOT” (payment in lieu of taxes) bill currently sitting on the governor’s desk. The bill, would allow the casinos to make a tax payment based upon their gaming income instead of the assessed value of their property. The bill in current form does not cover casino income from any other source such as restaurants, retail stores, leases, parking, bars and more.
At issue, is the shortfall created by the severely reduced tax collected from the casinos and its effect upon the surrounding communities as well as the overall fairness of such a program.
Galloway Mayor Don Purdy, Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola, County Executive Denny Levinson and Freeholder Rich Dase did their best to explain the complicated proposal to the standing room only crowd. Many residents were frustrated and angry over the fact that Galloway residents will see a tax increase under the current proposal.
The elected officials on hand assured the crowd that they were strongly opposed to the bill and were taking action to prevent the governor from signing it into law.
Many of the residents expressed concern over recent tax increases. Deputy Mayor Coppola said he understood and empathized with the crowd. He said that as a Galloway business owner with two children in Galloway schools, he too, felt the burden of high taxes. He told the crowd that township committee had control over only approximately 22.5 percent of local property taxes. The rest was schools, county and state taxes of which council has no control. In other words, even if township taxes did not go up but the school or county tax did, residents would pay more. In this specific case with the casinos, the tax shortfall created at the county level causes the tax increase in Galloway.
Mayor Purdy and Deputy Mayor Coppola informed the crowd that in actuality, Galloway Township taxes did go down by the township spending $267,000 less. The creation of more than 350 jobs at the old Lennox factory should mitigate taxes even further.
The Mayor and Deputy Mayor expressed their frustration at how regardless of Galloway’s efforts to reduce costs and ultimately taxes, Galloway is still adversely effected by the surrounding community.
Many pointed to the historically bad management of Atlantic City which resulted in overwhelming debt and an unsustainable budget as the main culprit. Others felt the casinos were just too greedy and never delivered on the promises they made to rehabilitate the city and invigorate the region.
When the floor was opened for questions, the first question asked was, “which is worse….the pilot program or the ….continuing devaluation of the casino properties”.
Another resident drew a large laugh from the crowd when he stated “I would leave New Jersey but my wife refuses to go”.
While the meeting exhibited moments of frustration, it was good to see so many members of the community becoming involved and voicing their opinions as well as concerns. The residents of the Four Seasons community represent a large part of the Galloway Community. Many are veterans and most are retired. They have worked most of their lives and deserve the respect of a responsive local government. With this in mind the Mayor and Deputy Mayor made sure to listen to what they had to say.
The officials were very happy with the large turnout and assured the crowd that they were firmly behind them on this issue.
The Galloway Patriot is working on scheduling a debate between the current candidates to address this and other issues. If you would like information about this debate please contact us. [email protected]