This NJ mayor can't afford to live in his own town

In a glaring example of the Garden State's high taxes, James McCullough's $31,000 property tax bill has him looking to sell.

By Jonathan Berr Aug 21, 2013 3:07PM
The waterfront home in Seaview Harbor owned by Egg Harbor Township Mayor James ‘Sonny’ McCullough (© The Press of Atlantic City)James "Sonny" McCullough is selling his home in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., because he can no longer afford the taxes. Lots of folks have found themselves caught in this very squeeze, but here's what makes McCullough's story unique: He's the mayor of this town of 31,000 near Atlantic City.

Officials revalued McCullough's property in the township's Seaview Harbor section at more than $1.1 million, a huge jump from the $360,000 he paid to build the home in 1985. As a result, his property taxes have zoomed by nearly 60% to $31,056, which McCullough says he can't afford.

"It's kind of disappointing," he told The Press of Atlantic City. "I thought I would be able to live and die in my home, but it's gotten to the point where it's gotten up so high."

McCollough couldn't be reached for comment for this story.

One of the few things uniting New Jerseyeans, besides admiration for Bruce Springsteen, is hatred for property taxes, which have been a hot-button topic for years. New Jersey is especially dependent on the taxes because, unlike in many other states, its local governments aren't permitted to levy their own sales and income taxes.

And unlike in other states, New Jersey's property taxes are a blend of levies used to fund school districts as well as state and county government operations. Therein lies the problem.

The state, which has a strong tradition of home rule, has about 566 municipalities and 588 school districts. Officials such as Republican Gov. Chris Christie have been pushing local governments to merge in order to cut expenses. Even so, the cost of living in New Jersey remains stubbornly high.

Tax Foundation data show the state's effective property tax rate is 1.9% and its property tax per capita is $2,819, both the highest in the nation. The state's total $6,689-per-capita tax burden is second only Connecticut's.

One thing's for sure: New Jersey residents will hear plenty of talk about property taxes ahead of next year's election for governor. Residents, though, will demand that officials in Trenton back up their words with deeds.

As for McCullough, he's going to try to move to another house in the township. If that plan fails, he may head to Florida, where he owns a condo that carries a tiny tax burden of $2,569.

Jonathan Berr is a Jersey resident who knows well the burden homeowners there shoulder. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

More on moneyNOW

612Comments
Aug 21, 2013 4:29PM
avatar
So much for the safety and security of owning your own home.
Taxing people beyond their ability to pay is not only unjust,  it's very destabilizing to communities.

Aug 21, 2013 4:29PM
avatar
So, now even the Liberals can't afford the Liberals.
Aug 21, 2013 3:46PM
avatar

It's funny, but as populated and dense as NJ is, the graduating classes from the high schools are like 80 kids.  The townships are only a couple square miles, and they all have their own police, fire, administrators, school system, park system...

Part of it is bigotry as the Italians don't mix with the Irish who don't talk to the Puerto Ricans who don't talk to the blacks, so they all segregate into their own little townships.  Part of it is just the fact that everybody wants to be a major player in their town, so they break them up into little portions.

Can't they all just get along.

Aug 21, 2013 4:12PM
avatar
One of the reason why I left NJ: extremely high taxes. My family pays $9,000.00 in property taxes and they don't even have half an acre.
Aug 21, 2013 4:41PM
avatar
Welcome to New Jersey!  I can't afford my home any longer so I'm getting out.  Nice to know I'm in good company with the mayor.  Today is the day I made the decision to go and contacted a realtor.  I'm also considering my selling options just to get out asap.  Been busy all day selling my stuff too.  When I leave it will be with my pets, some clothes and that's about it.  Leaving?  Maybe I should say fleeing!!!  Adios NJ.
avatar
Thank God for Prop. 13 which passed by a 2/3 majority in California.  Property taxes are limited to 1% of the purchase price of your house, and can only go up by 2% a year; unless the taxpayers vote in to tax themselves for more property taxes.  (And believe it or not; some of these jerks do vote YES).   So, even though I only paid $38,500 for my house which is now worth more than 1/2 million; my taxes are based on the purchase price....and they are under $1800 a year (house purchased more than 35 years ago).  And when you're over 65, you can opt out of all parcel taxes...which I did; thus giving the spend-thrift government even less of my money. 
Aug 21, 2013 4:27PM
Aug 21, 2013 4:30PM
avatar
thanks to unions and corupt officials - of course they want their little power haven for themselves - another lib state that can't afford it's own rules -
Aug 21, 2013 4:43PM
avatar
For the majority, socialism is the best form of government on earth until you run out of someone else's money!
Aug 21, 2013 4:33PM
avatar
If we keep electing "Democrats/Socialist", you will see taxes skyrocket in all areas.  Wake up people and elect business friendly candidates [notice I didn't say Republicans].  We need to defeat "Obamacare" and idiots like Bloomberg.
Aug 21, 2013 4:35PM
avatar

That is what Liberalism gets you. Big government that the common man works for. They voted those idiots in office so bend over and take it like you have it coming!

Aug 21, 2013 4:38PM
avatar
I see (at least) one more Detroit situation coming.
Aug 21, 2013 4:31PM
avatar
Who waits until they property taxes are 31k?  You'd think he'd have the inside "skinny" on what's happening in the tax assessor's office.  Soon "NJ" will coagulate into one big bloody lump of an overtaxed carbuncle.   Time to move all you terrible drivers.
Aug 21, 2013 4:40PM
avatar
What clever politian thought of all this in the first place? The people of NJ made the rules now they have to live with the consequences. I say move. What does NJ have to offer anyway? Certainly not the next President of the United States. J WOW, Snookie, The Situation??? And who can forget about those idots from Housewives of NJ. Impressive New Jersey. Impressive.
Aug 21, 2013 4:31PM
avatar
The con is the city determines the value of a home,working with real estate companies.The seller makes more money,the city gets more taxes,and the agent gets a higher commission.But everyone s greed,then creates a bubble and prices drop.In Va. Beach,Va. they have houses selling for what they would sell for a third in another area.
Aug 21, 2013 4:37PM
avatar
How about moving to Detroit ? No one's paying any thing there but the commute would be a Bi$#h.
Aug 21, 2013 5:08PM
avatar
Funny I bought a home in Indiana for 38 k !!!! My taxes are 410.00 per year. My towns kids get a good education,with good city services.  
Aug 21, 2013 4:38PM
avatar
soon there will be no one there, then it'll be a ghost town
Aug 21, 2013 4:41PM
avatar
People need to vote for changes to bureaucracy - more efficiency is needed for public services.  It is wrong  wrong wrong when public offices and jobs  pay more than the private sector.  This is a democracy and the public can form committees to oversee city government.  People are nuts to have these kind of tax rates!
Aug 21, 2013 4:31PM
avatar
Egg Harbor Twp  is the the town being discussed, not  Little Egg Harbor , which is about twenty miles north.
Report
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
Categories
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?

DATA PROVIDERS

Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

Trending NOW

What’s this?

MARKET UPDATE

[BRIEFING.COM] Equity indices closed out the month of August on a modestly higher note. The Russell 2000 (+0.6%) and Nasdaq Composite (+0.5%) finished ahead of the S&P 500 (+0.3%), which extended its August gain to 3.8%. Blue chips lagged with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.1%) spending the bulk of the session in the red.

The final week of August represented one of the quietest stretches for the stock market so far this year. The first four sessions of the week produced the ... More

MSN MONEY'S