Confessions of a Taxaholic
Hello, my name is Martin
and I’m a taxaholic. And after a long,
shameful spiral I hit rock-bottom
and became a Montclair Tax Refugee (MTR).
Let me confess my sorry tale, in the
hope it will bring comfort to other
recovering taxaholics and MTRs.
Like so many Montclair stories, mine
begins in Park Slope. We managed with
one child, but when my son came along in
1986, life became unmanageable, and the
suburbs beckoned. We town shopped, and
Montclair won, hands down. Here we were,
a writer and a psychologist, with a
4-year-old and 6-month old, moving from
Brooklyn to Montclair. We saw ourselves
as pioneers. Little did we know were a
Our daughter started
at Nishuane (after a search comparable
to choosing a heart surgeon)
We fell in love with a house on Inwood
Avenue, built in 1906, with a wraparound
porch and an oversized backyard.
Property taxes were $4,000 a year. By
the closing a month or so later, they were $5,000, I still
don’t know how.
On our first morning as Montclair
taxpayers, we woke to find a ticket on
our car for parking overnight in front
of the house we had just bought. Who
knew? (And in the 25 years since, I’ve
still never gotten a credible
explanation for that ordinance.) Our
daughter started at Nishuane (after a
search comparable to choosing a heart
surgeon), our son at the Montclair
Co-op. Property taxes inched to $7,000.
now, archeologists will dig up lacrosse
in the vicinity
of Inwood Avenue and ponder them
archeologists today dig up bits of
pottery and stone tools.
But these were good years. I was
introduced to the bizarre suburban
ritual of adult-led sports: soccer,
field hockey, baseball, and what became
my son’s passion; lacrosse, along with
strange acronyms at Montclair High such
as SVPA and CGI. My daughter had a party
when she graduated the high school,
which included the requisite visit from
the police (who were very polite). We
still don’t know which neighbor ratted
us out. Later, my son and other MHS varsity
teammates turned the yard into a
practice lacrosse field, launching
lacrosse balls hither and
yon. (Centuries from now, archeologists
will dig up lacrosse balls in the
vicinity of Inwood and Norwood and
ponder them, much as archeologists today
dig up bits of pottery and stone tools.
They will debate --- doctoral
dissertations will explore this -- the
origin of the strange English word
I learned never to call Upper Montclair
Property taxes crept to $10,000.
Services were cut, like the “set-out,
set-back” trash collection and library
hours. The free all-day pre-K, a reason
we chose the town, was eliminated.
Yet despite my gripes, life in
Montclair was dreamlike: I was never
sure how much of it was real: a woman in
Michigan who liked my Montclair-set
novel, My Wife’s Last Lover, wrote to
say how imaginative I was to have
created the lovely fictional town of
"Montclair." I thanked her.
Taxes hit $12,000 a year.
Our kids each went off to college. Every
morning I would walk past four empty
bedrooms that I was heating and cooling
and keeping clean and paying property
taxes on. The word "downsize" became a
familiar one in marital discussions. It
made no sense to stay.
Taxes closed in on $15, 000.
We would be closer
to Montclair’s restaurant row,
the museum, our auto
mechanic and our synagogue.
What more does one need
We couldn’t leave the town where we
raised our kids. Then this: if you don’t
have children in the schools, what
difference does it make if you’re on
Highland and Bloomfield or Sunset and
Bloomfield? Or Alexander before or after
it crosses into Bloomfield? Taxes aside,
the same house just costs less a town or
So -- I admit with voice shaking -- we
widened our search to outside Montclair.
Taxes, meanwhile, passed $16,000 a year.
Soon we found a small but lovely house
near Verona Park, a mile from the
Montclair Art Museum. We would be closer
to Montclair’s restaurant row, the
museum, our auto mechanic and our
synagogue. What more does one need in
So we left Montclair.
I still post on the Watercooler, and
reserve my right to complain about
Montclair taxes (even though I don’t
pay them) and the schools (even though I
don’t have kids in them). I still say
“Montclair” when asked where I live
(rationalizing that no one’s heard of
Verona and avoiding complex questions of
identity). We are in Verona Park almost
every day, and less than a mile from
Eagle Rock Reservation. We often walk to
Church Street, ironically connecting
more with Montclair’s downtown that when
we lived “uptown.”
And so I publicly confess my sins. We
voted with our feet. The system made us
do it. Please don't hate me.
The Montclair Times, Dec. 9, 2010)
About the Author |
© 2010 Martin Golan