Poor towns in South Jersey get less state aid, Rutgers finds
A Rutgers University-Camden study shows state municipal aid funding disparities between North and South Jersey, with the poorer towns in South Jersey getting the short end of the stick from Trenton.
Rutgers professor Michael Hayes says that gap is as much as 37 percent between the poorest North Jersey towns and the poorest South Jersey ones.
"Between 2008 and 2016, and I am finding that this regional gap, this disparity between the poorest south New Jersey municipalities and the poorest north New Jersey municipalities, has been increasing and increasing steadily."
He says his study also pointed out that for Jersey towns with higher property values, more property wealth, they get more from the state.
"There is a positive relationship between state funding assistance, and how much property values are in the municipalities."
Hayes says the aid formula is complicated at the least.
"It is a little challenging to know. It could be an intentional outcome as a result of state level policies that have been directing more state aid to north New Jersey municipalities, particularly north New Jersey municipalities that have high economic distress levels," he said. "For example, maybe the state wants to increase economic development in the state, and they might be choosing to put more revenue to the poorest north New Jersey municipalities because they think that they may be getting the biggest bang for their buck there, relative to poor south New Jersey municipalities."
He also questions about whether it might be better to provide municipal aid based on the lowest property values, similar to the school funding formula.
"I think that there are opportunities for state government to reduce this gap. A basic kind of back-of-the-envelope calculation that I did would require the state government to increase state funding assistance by 3 percent and target that additional assistance to the poorest New Jersey municipalities in the south region."
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Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5