To the Editor:

Those of us who are advocating for alternative approaches to affordable housing statewide have met stiff resistance from townships, state officials, and certainly the builders’ lobby.

When we advocate for the construction of affordable housing, but not all of the associated market homes, members of our group have been called racists. We most certainly are not, but we are used to the charges thrown at us by people who would rather call us names than respond directly to our concerns and suggestions.

Our related concern with PILOTs, those huge tax breaks provided to multi-billion dollar corporations, who will build the new affordable and market rate homes, now has local Democrats calling us anti-school and anti-child.

I am a lifelong teacher, and I am also the proud mother of two wonderful sons, who both graduated from the Hopewell Valley School District and are now out in the world. Our second son just finished serving in the Peace Corps in Rwanda.

I should not need to defend my motherhood and love of children when all I am doing is pointing out that the economics of PILOTs do not add up favorably for the existing residents of Hopewell Township. They run the huge risk of raising our taxes significantly, and also leading directly to deteriorating conditions in our schools.

The significant demographic change over the next eight years, as much as a 50 percent increase, will significantly affect the school system. The township’s so-called cost-benefit analysis of the PILOT approved for the Zaitz tract, an analysis apparently assembled by a single committee member, completely ignores this demographic change.  Do they really believe, as Committee Member Blake insists, that more students will lower taxes?

Most independent minds will agree that more students lead to higher taxes, hence the reason why we should not be offering a huge tax break to the developers of the west side of Scotch Road. When those tax breaks result in insufficient funds to educate the new children, the school district will have no choice but to raise taxes to make up the difference…. or else allow the quality of local education to deteriorate.

Keep in mind that even if the township voluntarily forwards the school’s share, normally 55 percent of the receipts, the tax break itself cuts the total receipt by a third during the first ten years of the PILOT.

This enormous population increase will also require the community to construct new or expand existing schools. The public has frequently inquired about the number of bedrooms precisely because that is the statistic that experts use to estimate the nature and size of the demographic change. So far, the township has ignored these requests.

The Democrats on the township committee are pretending that these impacts are not real, preferring to talk only about the benefits, not the costs.

I ask that local Democrats stop name calling and start dealing with the issues. They should start by commissioning an independent cost-benefit analysis that factors in the impact of the demographic changes that will result from the developer approvals they are making.

Cheryl Edwards

Hopewell Township

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