Lawrence Twp. Asks State To Release Municipality's Energy Tax Money

July 13, 2023 0 By JohnValbyNation

LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ — Mayor John Ryan has joined over 400 mayors from across the state, in urging Gov. Phil Murphy and the legislature to release hundreds of dollars they say the state is withholding from local government.

In an open letter, mayors cutting across party lines have argued that the state is accumulating utility fees that rightfully belong to the local governments. This money, the mayors say, is a necessary first step in addressing property tax affordability and offsetting other costs.

The letter was issued by the New Jersey State League of Municipalities (NJLM), the New Jersey Conference of Mayors (NJCM), and the New Jersey Urban Mayor’s Association (NJUMA). It was spearheaded by East Windsor Mayor Janice S Mironov, who is the immediate past president of the NJCM and NJLM; Paul Muir, Mayor of Bethlehem Township and President of NJCM among others.

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The request is not unique. The elected officials are simply asking the state to fully fund the Energy Tax Receipts Property Tax Relief Act in the FY24 state budget. The mayors are seeking over $350 million in utility tax, which has been annually diverted from towns, to be included in the 2024 budget.

Years ago, municipalities collected taxes from utility companies that utilize the public right-of-way. These taxes were no different than property taxes that are paid by people who own land in the township.

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In the 80s the state made itself the collecting agent for these taxes, promising to return the proceeds to municipalities for property tax relief.

“The governing body of Lawrence Township supports and joins the advocacy of Mayor Mironov and all of the municipalities seeking the full restoration of the ETRPTRF to municipalities effective 2024,” Township Manager Kevin Nerwinski told Patch.

“The challenges municipalities face every year in crafting budgets that must maintain services, address public safety issues, and improve infrastructure is daunting due to statutory caps on tax increases. Restoring the total balance of the fund to our towns is essential to our future success.”

Some mayors have been asking the state to return the money due to them for years now. But since the state sits on a surplus currently, more mayors have joined the chorus in urging the legislature to return the funds.

“Just as municipalities collect property taxes for the benefit of school districts, counties, and other entities; the State is supposed to collect Energy Taxes for the benefit of municipal governments,” the mayors said in their letter.

For years, State officials from both sides of the aisle have diverted funding from Energy Taxes to plug holes in the State budget and to fund State programs. The mayors believe the restoration of this funding to municipalities is long overdue and it would bring funding for all municipalities back to 2008 levels.

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Many Municipal governments across the state are facing financial challenges and difficulties, including the dramatic hike in healthcare premium costs for employees, huge pension increases, skyrocketing costs for solid waste and recycling collection and disposal, increased insurance costs, new state environmental mandated costs, and much more. All these costs will ultimately be borne by property taxpayers without relief, the mayors argue.

“Local officials are clearly committed to limiting their reliance on increased property taxes while bearing the responsibility to provide for local needs including critical public safety and health needs of the community,” the mayors said in their letter.

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