As previously mentioned, there are seven municipalities in New Jersey whose borders touch, all receiving more than $100,00,000 in educational aid as well as more than $10,000,000 in Municipal Aid in the same year. These municipalities include Newark, Irvington, Elizabeth, Union, East Orange, Jersey City, and Union City. To no surprise, these municipalities also possess a high cost of living index above the US average of 100 according to city-data.com. Newark: 120.9, Irvington: 294.3, Elizabeth: 121.6, Union: 281.0, East Orange: 119, Jersey City: 123.7, and Union City: 127.5. Based upon this information, one would think that the reason for these municipalities annually needing such large amounts of aid is due to the cost of living, which subtracts from the amount of money the individual municipalities would be able to use towards Educational and Municipal services. However, when we look to Camden and Vineland as the previously mentioned Outliers of New Jersey poverty, we can see that this trend is inaccurate.
Camden has a cost of living index of 102.1, very close to the national average. Vineland has an even lower index of 101.9. Meanwhile, on the reverse end of the issue we can look at Cherry Hill, a very wealthy township minutes away from Camden. Cherry Hill’s cost of living index is 127, comparable to that of Union City, Newark, Elizabeth, and Jersey City.
So, at this point one must posit the following question: How can New Jersey municipalities have such relative costs of living while there is still such a difference in 1. wealth 2. need of aid between municipalities with pretty much the same cost of living(i.e. Cherry Hill and Union City)?
The reason, I believe as of now with much more research to do, is due to municipal tax codes that dictate where the rich and the poor live in New Jersey with a very limited space for “grey area” instances. Since rich people generally live among other rich people, rich municipalities can determine higher tax rates that can provide more money to go directly to that municipality’s Board of Education and municipal government. This also means that richer municipalities obviously have a smaller dependence on State aide. Poor people generally live among other poor people, because poor municipalities are the only places that they can afford to live in which again, obviously, creates a high dependence on State aid to fill the gaps in municipal and educational budgets in New Jersey.
Like I said, more research will need to be done, and most of my effort will be spent looking into the pros and cons of the Mt. Laurel Doctrine. Hopefully I will be able to elicit the economic downfalls that the rejection of the Doctrine has created in New Jersey, which will help explain the reasons of existence of many impoverished places.