Monday, August 14, 2006

Deflating the American Dream in Jersey

From the Herald News:

Higher bills, flat incomes deflate the American Dream in Jersey

Frederick Rembis, a Clifton resident, has kept a log of his annual property tax bills for decades. Over the last few years, he's been troubled by what he's seen.

"Every year I write a larger check by 4 to 6 percent," said Rembis, 62, a retired engineer. "I'm worried."

Rembis is right to be concerned. Since 2000, property taxes in Passaic County have surged, while incomes have barely grown. Tax rate increases in many municipalities have doubled and nearly tripled the pace of household income growth, an analysis conducted by the Herald News has found.

Local homeowners say they have felt that shift acutely. It's made them cut spending, postpone retirement and contemplate moving out of state.
Passaic County property taxes increased by an average of 39 percent between 2000 and 2005, according to state data.

During that time, census statistics show that the county's median household income, when adjusted for inflation, plummeted by roughly one third.

The largest property tax increases since 2000 were in Lodi, Prospect Park, Totowa and Little Falls. Lodi's property taxes ballooned by 18 percent between 2003 and 2004, which was five times the inflation rate. From 2000 to 2005, Prospect Park saw the biggest overall increases in taxes, which rose by 52 percent.
New Jersey's property taxes are the highest in the nation, and twice the national average, according to census data. The average Passaic County homeowner paid $6,420 last year in taxes, more than $500 more than the state average.
The situation changed on both the spending and revenue fronts in 2000. As the American economy cooled, salaries stopped growing robustly and income tax revenue fell. State income tax revenue had increased by 14 percent between 1998 and 2001; it fell by the same percentage in 2002, according to Hughes. State spending also grew on a number of fronts. New Jersey's state work force swelled rapidly, fueled by school hiring and political appointments, according to Hughes.

"No one wanted to cut back," he said. "We lost discipline."


Anonymous Anth said...

Fun article about what Realtors DON'T tell you:

8/14/2006 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger grim said...

This Reuters piece really piqued my interest. Whenever I see proposed changes like this, gears start spinning in my head.

US mulls change in key inflation gauge: WSJ

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is contemplating a change in the consumer price index that may have an impact on how markets and policymakers interpret inflation data, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing a government official.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is considering publishing the index and its sub-indexes to three decimal places instead of one, which would greatly reduce the frequency with which rounding produces a misleading inflation rate, the report said.

No decision has been announced, but the change would likely take place early next year, according to the article.

8/14/2006 07:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How would this guy like to be trying to buy a house at these insane prices while property taxes escalate and utility bills soar?

what a cry baby.

8/14/2006 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger Richie said...

Who cares, live richly today, pay dearly tomorrow. That's citibank's slogan.


8/14/2006 07:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

posted from another thread as i didn't get any responses. appreciate feedback. thanks.


would appreciate everyone's input on upper montclair. currently live on the upper west side and have a 9 month old and ready to move to the suburbs for a more family oriented lifestyle. grew up in queens and lived in manhattan the last 10 years. i've heard montclair is called the 'west west side' or the park slope of nj and that sounds appealing due to the mix of culture and suburbs.

however, aside from the high taxes i've heard the schools aren't that great and you are not only near but also share some parts of montclair with 'less desirable' people. can anyone speak more authoritively on this? really need the scoop and won't trust a real estate agent to tell me. thanks a bunch.


8/14/2006 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger Richie said...

Montclair. You'll get mixed opinions from many people.

Just take a drive down Bloomfield Avenue to see if it's your next of the woods. Montclair and Glen Ridge are highly exagerated for their great lifestyle, but make a wrong turn at night and you'd think you were in a different state.

If you need to be close to manhattan (30 minutes to Hoboken on a train), then you might opt for it. If you don't mind staying on a train a little longer, go west. The more eastbound you get in jersey, the more congested it is.


8/14/2006 08:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder when the string of anecdotal property tax horror stories will play itself out. I think the newspapers are trying to do their share to put pressure on the politicians to address the property tax problem, but I think they are not helping people understand the probem better.

When the rubber hits the road, it won't be cost cutting, but other taxes that replace the bulk of the property tax cut. What has to go hand-in-hand with that though is removing the ability of the local entities to raise taxes. I know I've written this before, and it doesn't take a genius to see it, but as long as school boards and municipalities have the ability to tax, they will, so without taking that ability away any fix is just a band-aid.

8/14/2006 08:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry for leaving it off,

anon 9:23 was me,


8/14/2006 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Shailesh Gala said...

Nice article from BW for Firsttime buyers.

By Sonja Ryst: Buying Your First Home? Bide Your Time

For Generations Y and X (terms often used to describe the twenty- and thirtysomethings), "homeownership is coming later than it did for the baby boomers," says Tamara Draut, director of the Economic Opportunity Program at think tank Demos. She points out that young adults today must grapple with new obstacles, such as exorbitant student-loan burdens and higher housing costs. "It takes them longer to scrape together a downpayment, and then they have to face a housing market that's become brutally expensive."

BUY-IN HAS BALLOONED. "Who in the world is buying the $500,000 condos?" says James Chung, president of marketing strategy firm Reach Advisors. "It's Gen Y, but they're coming to the table with 20% downpayments given to them by their parents." He says Generation Y are more likely to have tight bonds to their families than Generation X. Meanwhile, the baby boomers who have seen the greatest income growth in the U.S., and can afford to give their children a helping hand, are those most likely to have children in the younger age group, Chung says.

PATIENCE, NEWBIES. While more young people are putting the American dream of homeownership on hold these days, there's a silver lining in this cloud. "The current slowdown is a much healthier environment for new home buyers. They can take their time and wait to find the right place for them," says Kevin Dorwin, a portfolio manager and certified financial planner at San Francisco Bay Area wealth management firm Bingham, Osborn & Scarborough.

8/14/2006 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

COMPLETELY OTS but of interest to NJ:

Did anyone else hear the quick blurb this morning on NJN that Jim McGreevey is doing a T.V. show... initiated by Joan Rivers???

Can you believe it? We discussed this when he and his partner bought their home.

Do you think THAT influenced the specific home purchase?

Really amazing how history repeats itself. What will be next? SEC issues? On the whole, the show would be a good thing for NJ, don't you think?


8/14/2006 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Shailesh Gala said...

Pat: That's funny.

I would say Jerry Springer has competition.

8/14/2006 09:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope they keep it real.

Suppress the anti-Jersey-isms and maintain a focus.

There's enough bad press about this area.


8/14/2006 09:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not just Jersey, it is the same across the country.

8/14/2006 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Upper Montclair is nice, but the taxes and iffy schools would make me think twice. My suggestion would be to look at Westfield-- it seems to also appeal to ex-Upper West Siders (and others of that type of demographic), and has a solid school system.

Of course, buying now is probably a mistake, but that's another issue altogether.

8/14/2006 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger chicagofinance said...

would appreciate everyone's input on upper montclair. currently live on the upper west side and have a 9 month old and ready to move to the suburbs for a more family oriented lifestyle. grew up in queens and lived in manhattan the last 10 years. i've heard montclair is called the 'west west side' or the park slope of nj and that sounds appealing due to the mix of culture and suburbs.

however, aside from the high taxes i've heard the schools aren't that great and you are not only near but also share some parts of montclair with 'less desirable' people. can anyone speak more authoritively on this? really need the scoop and won't trust a real estate agent to tell me. thanks a bunch.

Tim: Take a Saturday and drive around there. Buy a map before you go. Walk around the Upper Montclair business district and also walk on the Montclair main drag.

Drive on Valley from Route 3 to Bloomfield Ave, and then turn left on Bloomfield and drive toward the "less desirable area". Also drive on Upper Mountain.

The taxes are a joke, offensive. The schools are diverse. What that means is that there is opportunity for the elite to stretch themselves, but there are also average folk. So what.

Westfield is nice, but it is also substantially different from everything around it.

Please remember that NJ Transit is garbage. You are almost forced to be close in toward NY or else you will quickly have a 60+ minute commute.

Montclair, Maplewood and Westfield stand out because of their proximity to the trains and the length of commute.

Recognize that NJ is ideal for a downtown NYC commute, but Westchester is far better for a mid-town commute, as the Metro North is a vastly superior public transit option.

It takes less time to get all the way to Stamford CT from GCT than it takes to go to Summit NJ from Penn Station. Ridiculous.

8/14/2006 10:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is hilarious

8/14/2006 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Westfield is nice, but it is also substantially different from everything around it."

Can only assume what you are trying to say here, but Mountainside, Scotch Plains, Cranford, Fanwood, Clark etc. say hi.

8/14/2006 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

seems in the area cranford and possibly mountainside is the next best thing to westfield (from a westfield centric viewpoint of course). if you can afford it i like the summit, madison, chatham areas due to their proximity to each other, also easier to get to morristown and montclair from there. westfield and the surrounding towns are a bit isolated 'down there'.

8/14/2006 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

tim, montclair and maplewood high schools are frankly the pits. they've been going downhill for years. elementary schools in the nicer sections are of course ok. if you want to 'pick a town' for the next 20 years to hunker down in look to chatham, madison, westfield, millburn or summit. sure they're all obscenely overpriced but if you can afford it that's where i would go.

8/14/2006 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

North Jersey has some great towns.. Harrington Park, Old Tappan, Rivervale,Hillsdale and Woodcliff Lake .. I have noticed alot of price reductions in my area.(HP). But I have to agree NJ transit Stinks.. I am on the Pascack Valley line and thought I am 15 min from the GW it takes me and hour by train or bus to get to NYC.. As for Central Jersey.. We were looking at Chatham but my husbands family is in North Jersey and mine is in CT.. So North Jersey made more sense.. But I love Chatham..

8/14/2006 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger NJGal said...

Just out of curiosity, what does everyone think of Caldwell? Don't know much about it but there seem to be some nice places...

8/14/2006 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just my opinion... and i think a couple other posters were alluding to this... everyone... you have to be very careful now when picking a town because it looks like shared services is a very good possibility... so, get the NJ map out and look at the overall area as well... if shared service does happen, it very well could change the face of many towns...

8/14/2006 12:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think a good question is... for all of those thinking about buying a home in the Chatham/Madison area... who is going to end up sharing services with Morristown? Take a look at the map...

8/14/2006 01:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Caldwell is lovely - especially North Caldwell - but very pricey and has high taxes. But then again, what else is new? I have several friends who grew up there and now raise their kids there (both in North and West Caldwell) and they love it - very good school system. Surrounding areas are very nice too (Montville, Fairfield, Roseland) so if the townd end up having to share their services at least it should be with other good towns. Best way to commute to NYC is to take 280 to JC and take the PATH in (should be around 45 minutes door-to-door to midtown) or to take the bus from the Willowbrook Mall. I take the bus myself from Parsippany and it is SOOO much better than NJ Transit trains. The buses leave every ten to fifteen minutes so there is more flexibility than the trains. RML

8/14/2006 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger NJGal said...

Thanks RML - the commute was what I was wondering about. I'm not surprised about high taxes - it's NJ! I saw an interesting house on CL today - someone was offering to sell it for 750 and let you choose all the reno stuff - a bit high for my taste but sounds like someone wants it sold before the market tanks.

8/14/2006 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger njresident286 said...

North Caldwell is a BEAUTIFUL town with some great residence and great schools. If it were not so expensive, I would love to buy a home there

8/14/2006 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

willowbrook mall is disgusting. why would anyone with an ounce of class shop there?

8/14/2006 03:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Willowbrook mall is beyond disgusting. Look around .

Its like being in another country.

8/14/2006 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous LeeS said...

Question on commuting:

I notice there are a lot of towns that don't have a transit hub and people are forced to other towns to commute. My question is, in places where you aren't a town resident how much can you typically expect to pay to park your car?

It begins to feel like there is little difference in pricing when buying in NY vs. NJ.

8/14/2006 03:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I park in Westwod and live in Harrington Park.. Its $1.50 a day or $30 a month

8/14/2006 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear God, hear we go again with the mall talk. First Livingston, now Willowbrook. Do you only shop at Short Hills? Do you think everyone who commutes out of Willowbrook on the bus is a scumbag? That only the worthy travel on the NJ Transit trains out of Summit, Chatham, Madison, Short Hills and Millburn? So many of you ae a bunch of friggin' snobs!!! RML

8/14/2006 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Willowbrook is just loaded with
scumbags. just look around, next

Its just part of NJ now.

look around, do you think these
people are citizens? I don't.

8/14/2006 05:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt that larger school districts (Parsippany, Morristown) will be combining services. Also, if anything, all that would mean is one superintendent and maybe one business adminstrator instead of two. I do NOT see that as the schools/students themselves intermingling. If you look at how county school districts are run in other states the above is how it is: where you live determines the school you go to & one chief school administrator is in charge.


8/14/2006 06:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just my opinion... but i believe shared service will happen... i read the other day that 55% of the state's spending goes to the abbott school districts.... there are 30 of them all together... quite amazing... so, if this does go thru that could mean the elimination of those districts... due to seemingly improved test scores... anyway... that would also mean a massive re-districting of the state and a re-distribution of school dollars... hopefully, it will be orderly.

8/14/2006 09:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know why the taxes are so high? because nobody wants to live in Wyoming or Utah. NJ is the best of both worlds- some rural and some urban. But im confident that once i go to college out of state(becuase Corzine cut in-state funding) that ill probably stay out of state. i.e. taxes.

8/24/2006 04:23:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home