Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who owns the tax hike?

I’ve never considered leaving Trenton until the water works petition passed. For the first time in 10 years, I started to think of other options in terms of where I should live. The proposed tax hike will kill any hopes at continued revitalization in the near future and will have a devastating effect on the few viable and successful neighborhoods within the city. Without being a real estate expert, but gauging what happened in the early 1990’s in Chambersburg, its safe to say that rising tax rates will only increase the abandoned housing stock, lower the overall housing prices in the city, reduce equity on a monumental scale (and ratables), and will form the basis for a new wave of flight from the city. I, for one, would want to get out before the prices bottom out.

While I can appreciate the diversity of political opinions that have produced this stalemate, I cannot understand why anyone would force the City into the role of raising taxes at this scale. If the leaders of the petition want to punish Mayor Palmer in some way, they should not make the rest of the City suffer as well. I question the motivation of anyone who has led this process down a path so extreme, that it will result in even more hardship on our already challenged City.

If the argument is that the finances of the City will be in the same bad shape in a couple of years, then I argue that if anything, the water sale has bought us time to negotiate hard with the State. The State is responsible for a sizeable portion of Trenton’s land mass, and much of it in the downtown and waterfront is classified as blighted by the City’s own standards for determining redevelopment areas (namely surface parking). With the City in such dire financial shape, its time to force the State to consolidate parking, increase its PILOT, or come to some other yet unknown agreement with the City so that the residents and business owners are not overburdened by an unfair and unequal tax. Is it a sustainable way to keep the budget? No. But it may get us through this terrifying recession.

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About Me

In 1998, I packed up an old Civic with all of my belongings and made a drive from Lubbock, TX to New Jersey. The second day in Jersey, someone at Princeton told me: "hey- you're an architect? Check out Trenton sometime". I found a dilapidated house in Mill Hill and renovated it with my wife for a couple of years. We were blessed with a baby girl four years ago who has helped us to experience the city in wholly new ways! I'm an architect with a specialization in master planning, and am currently a member of the Trenton Planning Board.