Ewing tax hike will not affect students until next year

Ewing Township residents received a nasty surprise in their quarterly tax bills: a 25-percent jump in property taxes. For College students who rent off campus, the impact of the tax increase will not be felt until next year.

According to Thomas Hespe, Ewing Township tax collector, the increase is needed to pay the school and county taxes that the town is obligated by law to collect.

Hespe said that the next quarterly tax bills should decrease somewhat because fewer months of school tax will be collected. The way school taxes are currently structured, Ewing collects seven months worth of school tax in the first half of the year and only five months in the second.

But while township officials say they’re just doing their jobs, Ewing residents are angry at the lack of notice about the increase.

According to a Times of Trenton article dated Feb. 21, Wendell Pribila, Ewing Township mayor, admitted to an angry crowd of 700 people at a special meeting of the Ewing Township Council that he heard about the increase only a day before the bills were mailed out.

But while township residents have begun to organize a recall petition for the mayor and council, the impact on College students should be less immediate and less dramatic.

James Sanocki, president of the Ewing Township Landlord Association, has already signed leases for 2006-07 on his seven rental properties. The rents are locked in and can’t be raised in response to the tax increase. Students won’t see the increase in their rent bills until the 2007-08 leases.

Though he said his group has not yet discussed the increase, Sanocki said his personal practices were typical of area landlords.

“The big issue is we just got these tax bills,” Sanocki said. He said if he had been notified earlier, he would have been able to increase rent on his properties to compensate.

Area landlords won’t be the only ones to feel the pinch of the tax increase. The increase will be passed down to students who rent in the area, once rates can be adjusted.

Sanocki said the increase wouldn’t affect students as much as it does the average Ewing homeowner. Since rent is divided among several different students, increases are likely to be only about $25 per tenant per month. Area rents will rise from about $450-$500 per student per month to $475-$525 per student per month.

Students who plan to renew their leases might be able to avoid the increase altogether. Sanocki said that if a group of students has treated the property well and is looking to renew, he will leave the lease at the same rate as the year before. Sanocki said that finding good groups of renters is so hard that he’ll forego the extra cost to assure that he has a group that’s treating his property well.

The final township municipal budget has not been approved, and the council has vowed to cut costs where it can. Therefore, the long-term increase may not be as high as it was in the current tax bill. But, for the angry residents packing special meetings about the increases, that offers little solace.