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The Boss
THE HIGHEST TAXED CITY

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

In a pamphlet, `Jersey City Has Everything for Industry,' published by the city in 1937 it was asserted, `Property taxes and assessments are low in Jersey City'; and then in the statement of finances published by the comptroller in 1939 the point was made that the credit of the city is good because the city has unlimited taxing power. There seems to be some confusion of thought here on the part of the city administration; they cannot persuade industry to locate in Jersey City by alleging that taxes are low (when they are not) and at the same time promise the city's creditors that taxes, if necessary, have no ceiling.

Mr. Greer on November 30, 1939, referred to the `unlimited taxing power' of Jersey City which supports its debt; but on December 14, 1939, in his affidavit to Judge Fake he wrote, `The City's tax rate has definitely reached a point of "diminishing returns," evidenced by the fact that the percentage of tax collections in the past two years has remained static as contrasted with the steady and decided improvement throughout the state.'

The power to tax may not be legally limited, but practically the limit is reached when taxes are so high that they overcome whatever advantages of site, labor supply, or raw materials a location may present. In spite of an advertising appropriation of $25,000 annually for some years, it does not appear that Jersey City has been successful in attracting industries other than several hundred sweatshops which have opened in the Harborside Building. Statistics on businesses that have moved away are impossible to obtain, though an occasional instance is reported in the newspapers. The decrease in the population of Jersey City from 317,000 in 1930 to 301,000 in 1940 and the decrease in the population of Hudson County from 691,000 to 651,000 indicate, however, an exodus of industry from the area. There has been virtually no new building since 1929 except public building. When General Motors established two new plants in New Jersey recently it built one at Linden and one near Trenton, in spite of Jersey City's undeniably admirable location near waterfront and railheads.

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