Recession in a New Jersey McMansion Town

The McMansion loses value right in its McPrime. Here’s how it feels to have a Recession in a McMansion town.

 How everyone tries to hide it. Layoffs and hidden short sales. Taxes continue to go up. What was $3000 a year in taxes ten years ago is now almost $18,000 per year. The Bourgeoisie McMansioneers still offer to pay more taxes because they think they’re getting such a great deal compared to Essex County. A raise is given to the school superintendant while the same superintendant is negotiating to cut school programs. Yes, the high school programs are cut. Pay to play sports programs are discussed, and a full day kindergarden is gone. $215,000 per year for her because the town must stay ahead of the neighboring town’s $210,000 school superintendant. Whatever. The teachers union is outraged that 2% raises are possibly going to be frozen. Taxpayers are asking for a freeze.  Teachers are still given raises.

What has changed in New Jersey, the highest taxed state in the country? Property values are down – Property taxes actually are up! It’s a real slap in the face and who’s going to stand for it? The McMansioneers don’t seem to mind.

Governor Christie is still sreaming at the Teachers Union. Everyone in town thinks the teachers had a giveback, but no, it didn’t happen. Teachers still feel deserving of a 2% raise. School board can’t negotiate a 2% pay freeze increase with teachers. PTO dues goes from $8 to $20, because “we can afford it,” so says the PTO mom. Your kids come home with more wrapping paper, candy, and magazines to sell to raise money for a school that keeps cutting services and not addressing the real problems.  In class spending contines to go down. Out of the class spending keeps going up. It’s broken. Really broken.

Public transportation raises the NYC rail fees by 30% offering one more slap in the face to the laid off McMansioneers. Again, they keep telling us how “our town is a great value compared to towns in Essex County,” which is ludicrous. Just because it costs less here, doesn’t mean we’re a great deal. Unions just don’t get it that the tax base is collapsing and their system cannot be sustained. It still doesn’t matter to them. It’s another public vs. private heated argument. Nobody seems to understand the term “We can’t afford it”. Governor Christie will have that saying on his tombstone. Newark is laying off 162 cops (20%) . Camden is laying off over 100 (almost 50%). McMansion town, no layoffs cause we can afford it.

There’s a new $60 million dollar performing arts center at the high school. A fancy auditorium for sure, yet the drama club is considered for cuts. Pay to play in sports is being considered, but there are still 16 football coaches on the payroll. The timing person for the track team and performing arts ticket sales person, who’s a board of education employee, is paid $35 per hour for their time. The McMansioneers still feel they can afford it.

The hidden soup line is here – you can just feel it. Some have made their first trips to Wal-Mart, but refused to admit it. I’ve seen their school magnets on their luxury SUV’s in the parking lot. Google searches for thrift shops are on the rise. You know it but you probably have to wear a disguise if you venture there. Donations at the civic organizations are down. They’d probably go bankrupt if they could.

House values have dropped 20% and the local government still wants more. At the school board meeting, there are actually parents that want the board to opt for more school cost increases, and feel justified in asking for it. They don’t even know what a recession is. People are now walking their own dog, and picking up their own dog poop. No more scoop service. Have to cut back you know.

They may not talk about it, but the recession IS here. It has to be here. These are the people that leveraged their buying power, over extended the house built ATM to buy the Acura MDX and Lexus SUV’s. Just don’t talk about it and we’ll all get through it.

The physical signs continue when wives are cutting back on Pilates classes. Y memberships are on the rise. You have to suffer when you don’t get your personal trainer anymore. The antiques shop went bust. Only one coffee shop now. The corner bistro has changed hands three times in 3 years. The 401k has become the new piggy bank, along with its 10% early withdrawal penalty. Gotta keep up with the Jones’s.

Can’t show the effect of the recession. Not here, not in my back yard.

Yet, there’s definitely 10% not working. And another 10% that were consultants and they’re not billing either. But these government numbers don’t show on the unemployment figures. Thank God you apply for unemployment online and don’t have to go to the office. Thank God for the $485 a week. Mortgage $ 6,000/month – still only a $1 per square foot. Now your square footage is valued at $0.75 per foot, and your paying $1.00. The term underwater creeps into your head. Downsizing is out of the question. At least until the court or the IRS takes it. Woops, too late.

The government mentions that there’s no inflation. But gas is up. Utilities are up. Food prices up. Taxes up. But inflation is stagnant. Who believes this?

The hidden stigmatism of living in a McMansion community – recession proof?

Not so much anymore.

My town – Basking Ridge, New Jersey

Sound familiar anywhere else?

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