In compiling New Jersey Monthly’s 2019 Top Towns list, researchers at Leflein Associates, an independent research firm based in Ringwood, considered five categories to represent the quality of life in New Jersey’s 565 municipalities: home values, property taxes, crime rate, school performance and a lifestyle factor (explained below).
Due to a lack of statistically significant data, towns with populations under 1,500 were dropped from the survey. The research team ranked each of the remaining 513 towns based on the following indicators: average residential tax bill (2018); change in average property tax bill (2016-2018); effective property tax rate for 2018; median home-sales price (2018); change in median home-sales price (2016-2018); average days homes were on the market (2018); total crime rate (2016); violent-crime rate (2016); ranking in New Jersey Monthly’s Top Public High Schools chart (published September 2018); and a lifestyle factor that considers the number of acute-care hospitals and live performing-arts theaters within 10 miles of the municipality’s main zip code, number of restaurants within two miles of the municipality’s main zip code, and average commute time for those working away from home. The final rankings were based on each municipality’s combined rankings for the 10 indicators. Extra weighting was given to the Effective Tax Rate and Top High Schools indicators.
The following sources were used: NJ Department of Local Government Services (for population figures); NJ Division of Taxation (for property taxes); NJ Division of Taxation/Office of Property Administration (for home-sales prices); New Jersey Realtors (for time on the market); NJ Division of State Police (Uniform Crime Report); NJ Hospital Association (hospital locations); NJ Council for the Arts and NJ Theater Alliance (theater locations); Yelp.com searches (restaurant locations); and the U.S. Census/American Community Survey (commute times). The annual crime rate and violent crime rate are based on reported crimes per 1,000 residents.