New Jersey has the highest property taxes of any state in the U.S. I own a row house with a postage-sized stamp yard in the town of Collingswood, and I pay about $5,000 a year in property tax.
On paper, living in Collingswood looks like an unwise financial decision. But consider the alternatives:
I could pay a fifth of my current property taxes if I moved over the bridge to Philadelphia. But then I'd have to pay taxes on my wages, a business tax since I'm self-employed, plus pony up for a business license. These are all things I don't have to pay in Collingswood.
OK, so I could move to a suburb of Philadelphia. My sister and her husband live in one, and she pays for trash and recycling pick up, which are services included in my taxes. Plus, she's considering private school for her two sons because the area's schools aren't great. Ka-ching!
Sure, I could pick up and move to Florida, where I went to college. But then I'd be whacked with a 7 percent sales tax on things like clothing, unprepared food, medicines, and household paper products. New Jersey's tax on those items? Zero.
My point is this: It's not all about dollars and cents when it comes to where you live. Collingswood is a small friendly town, with an active downtown, a farmer's market, and a commuter train to Philadelphia. Our streets are tree lined, our crime levels low. My dog has a backyard. My family is here. I have dug roots in deep. Could I save a few bucks by moving across the bridge? Perhaps. Would I rather pay less in property taxes? Of course. But for my own slice of Garden State heaven, those bucks are worth it.