Across the Hudson River where property taxes are a hot button issue, homeowners in one New Jersey town know how to get more bang for their buck.
What’s Harding Township’s secret? Lawmakers keep those taxes down and residents happy.
It’s a secret the residents don’t want the rest of the state to know about — how they’ve managed keep their property taxes down.
When you step into Harding Township you feel like you’ve gone back in time.
Horses, farms, barely any street lights. This little oasis is just 35 miles from the city, near transportation and malls.
But residents say what makes this New Jersey town special is they pay some of the lowest property taxes in a state with the highest rates in the nation.
“It’s like a little spot no one knows about it — because it’s not such a huge area people don’t know about it,” resident Gary Gutjahr said.
Gutjahr pays $36,000 a year for a $6 million home. He said he’d pay triple that in neighboring Mendham.
Township officials said there is a reason for moderate taxes — shared services, a concept Gov.-elect Chris Christie pushed during his campaign.
“I think the governor-elect has been saying it for nine months. We have a spending problem. We have to live within what we can believe our revenues are going to be,” said Regina Egea.
The Township has a private fire department that’s 100 percent volunteer. Some residents rely on well water and septic tanks and those who live in the New Vernon section pick up their own mail from the post office.
That’s why realtor Deborah Tong said you get more land here for your tax dollars.
“We have private garbage. We only have K-8 and our sending district is Madison High School,” Tong said.
The Township has more than 3,600 residents and because it has a wildlife refuge and national park building’s kept at a minimum.
And there seems to be something else.
“There is a lot of volunteerism with Harding Township,” Deputy Mayor Ned Ward said.
The Kirby family donated money to build the municipal building, and residents say their families have been here for generations.
“It’s a great town to live in,” Lucinda Miller said. “The secret’s out. A lot of people move here strictly for the address.”
At the center of town there’s a deli and several real estate companies. While the secret may be out, it remains to be seen if other New Jersey towns can do what Harding Township has done — keep property taxes down through shared services.
Still, despite all the positives, Township officials said because of falling revenues they still struggle to hold taxes flat.