MY TURN By Peter Compa

| 22 Feb 2012 | 07:50

    School teachers not to blame for region’s high taxes I read with skepticism the comments from Mike Garrett accusing the teachers union for the high taxes in Sussex County. To start with, the cost of education has been, is now and will always be the biggest cost to taxpayers. As people in Sussex Wantage paid for you and your brothers to attend public institutions, today, it is our turn to pay for those attending our local schools. Here in New Jersey, we do this through our property taxes. Not all states use this method to pay for public education. To use the report to skew public opinion is outrageous at best. The study that Mr. Garrett references was put out by The Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C. ( Here are all the figures for Sussex County: Median property tax: $5,677, Rank: 17, Median Home Value: $324,400, Tax as % of Home Value: 1.8 percent, Rank: 147, Median Homeowner Income: $87,884, Tax as % of Income: 6.5 percent, Rank: 18. At face value, Mr. Garrett is correct. We rank No. 17 in the nation per this study. But the report says a lot more than taking just one of eight line items. Using his rationale, I could say that based upon this data, the Republican party, who have run this county from the onset, have done a miserable job of managing our financial resources and are to blame for our No. 17 ranking. The truth, however, lies in the fact that Sussex County is a rural community, a bedroom community, a farming community. We are told that this is what the taxpayers want. I know my family have enjoyed our five years here in the county. But there is a price to pay for this lifestyle and it is called fewer ratables. As a farming community, we also provide Farmland Assessment, which helps our farmers reduce their overhead costs and keep the farms active. This is vital to the area but the tax difference is passed along to those of us who are not farm assessed. You, Mike, along with your brother, receive this benefit so I am at a loss as to why you consistently whine about taxes when the rest of us pick up your slack. Without business coming into our area and helping reduce the tax burden of homeowners, taxes will continue to rise. The new tax bill for the county rose 5 percent over last year. Mike, where’s the outrage? Here in Wantage, our municipal taxes rose 19.5 percent without any new services. Also, the taxpayer here pays $26,000 a year for family health benefits for each of our three committee people as well as our town employees. As I recall, this figure far exceeds the per family cost of healthcare benefits to our teachers and staff. By the way, the township employees and committee members do not pay one cent toward their plans either. Where is the outrage Mike? Finally, you comment that the teachers “will continue to refuse to consider paying even a small portion of their top-of-the-line benefits” and “insisting on very attractive pay raises for each of the next three years.” Since the BOE and teachers are still in negotiations, any information pertaining to those negotiations is in strict confidence. You are right about one thing, the people of Wantage have to get out and vote. We took two giant steps forward in the last election. We can take three more leaps for mankind next April by cleaning out the rest of the problems. Peter Compa is a resident of Wantage. His wife Kathryn is a member of the school board.