GUEST COMMENTARY — Melham says Murphy, Legislature must restore energy tax receipts to lower local tax burden


To the Editor:

As the state Legislature and governor move to adopt a new state budget by the end of the month, there have been record surpluses in recent years.

And we have seen the benefit in Belleville — with ANCHOR tax rebates and state aid that has allowed us to continually improve municipal and school facilities.

You would think this is finally the year state leaders would restore more than $330 million that is owed to municipalities across the state, including Belleville, in the form of energy-tax receipts.

Yet — to the frustration of mayors statewide — the fiscal ’24 budget does not include the money designed solely to reduce municipal property taxes.

Taxes on gas and electric utilities were originally collected by Belleville and towns statewide, compensating us for the use of public land. Yet, more than a decade ago, the state decided to take over the collection of the funds and — to no one’s great surprise — the money went to the state Treasury, despite promises the money would be directed back to municipalities.

Last year, I joined mayors throughout New Jersey to urge the state to pay us what is due. A bill to partially restore $75 million of our taxpayers’ money for property tax relief passed the state Legislature. Yet this line item is nowhere to be seen in the proposed fiscal ’24 budget.

In May, I was one of more than 400 mayors from across New Jersey to sign a joint letter between the League of Municipalities, the Conference of Mayors and the Urban Mayors Association that was sent to the Governor’s staff and all 120 members of the State Legislature seeking to restore the energy tax receipts.

The state must stop balancing its budget on the backs of local taxpayers. This pot of money is solely meant for direct tax relief, and it’s time the state finally pays up.

Michael A. Melham
Mayor of Belleville

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.