To the Editor:
I still remember with nostalgia a time when Democratic and Republican members of the Township Committee were skeptical regarding all dealings with developers.
The financial agreement the Hopewell Township Committee entered into with the developer of the Zaitz tract at the HTC’s July 30 meeting is a PILOT (Payments to Municipalities in lieu of taxes) agreement over 30 years. So, when Zoning Board member Andrew Borders talks about a new $90 million for Township coffers, divide his numbers by 30 for the yearly impact.
That brings this new asset to $3 million a year, an insignificant amount when compared to the $36 million tax increase projected by the demographic impact of the township’s affordable housing planning. A Zoning Board member ought to understand the financial basics of affordable housing.
Although members of the Township Committee did not like the sound of the term, it was indeed corporate welfare, a tax abatement for one of the wealthiest building firms in the US.
A. Matthew Boxer, NJ State Controller, wrote a 2010 report (available on the web athttps://www.nj.gov/comptroller/news/docs/tax_abatement_report.pdf) in order to inform citizens about the use of such PILOT abatements. His conclusion (not mine): “Tax abatements result in significant foregone revenue and introduce tax inequities that deserve closer scrutiny.”
Such municipal agreements forego millions in revenue through reductions or exemptions in taxes all here in the name of subsidizing the construction of affordable housing as well as market rate units in Hopewell Township.
It is well known that such agreements distort municipal incentives to create their own affordable housing solutions. The criteria for evaluating these agreements is weak, and there is insufficient state monitoring.
PILOT agreements are complex, and the benefits must be measured and analyzed. Thorough cost-benefit analysis should always be made. Hopewell Township’s 130- page agreement was provided to the citizenry only days before the vote. I cannot imagine that many people knew about or had the time to read it. I only made it half way through by the time of the vote. In this case, tax monies that would be needed for the county, fire, library, and the schools (consider the population explosion that we will soon experience) will not be going to these governmental entities. And so, has the Township negotiated an agreement to forward the School’s share of the monies that now come in, in lieu of the tax revenue that we will not see later?
Mr. Borders is judging all of this by a simplistic standard: Please re-elect those who appointed him. I judge these efforts by a very different standard. My standard is “What’s in the best interest of Hopewell Township?” Our municipal government has once again failed my standard.
Pennington, NJ 08534
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