A smart-growth advocacy group called New Jersey Future makes you wonder if the Garden State has a future — if by that you mean the state's children.
In an op-ed article earlier this year, NJF's executive director, George Hawkins, said flatly, "If you have kids, New Jersey's towns don't want you."
Iver Peterson of The New York Times writes of one new development of 680 expensive townhouses and condos outside Trenton that was approved by local planners on the promise "hardly any children will move in," no more than 30.
An economic development official spoke to Peterson approvingly of the development's location next to a rail line because "people know that railroad tracks are not good places to raise kids."
The spread of kid-unfriendly town planning has its roots in money. Kids are expensive, apparently more so in New Jersey than elsewhere. The median cost of educating a child there is $10,652 and the median revenue from property taxes, which account for 75 percent of local tax revenues, is $4,047.
"The math is simple," writes Hawkins. "Even if 100 percent of local property taxes were dedicated to education, the property tax paid by one household doesn't cover the costs of educating one child."
That leaves local officials with three not very good alternatives: cut the quality of education; raise the property tax (already the nation's highest) or try to attract more commercial development, a course of action that Hawkins says is "a huge loser." The answer, then, in the absence of broader more equitable taxes, is to discourage families with children from moving in.
It all seems rather sad that towns are even faced with this choice. Meanwhile, San Francisco, which for economic and demographic reasons has been losing families with children, is trying hard to attract them.
Maybe the solution for New Jersey is not to think of them as children but rather as the future taxpayers of America. They're going to get the bill one day anyway.