ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — New Jersey Monthly magazine recently released its biannual list of “the top towns” in the state, ranking each municipality from best place to live to worst place to live based on a number of criteria. In the 2019 list, Essex County ranged the gamut, with two towns in the top 20, but one dead last. This year’s top municipality was Madison.
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. Due to a lack of statistically significant data, towns with populations under 1,500 were dropped from the survey, leaving 513 municipalities.
The rankings for Essex County’s municipalities are as follows: Fairfield at No. 12, Roseland at No. 14, Verona at No. 29, Essex Fells at No. 33, Caldwell at No. 38, Millburn at No. 42, North Caldwell at No. 46, West Caldwell at No. 51, Livingston at No. 69, Cedar Grove at No. 70, Glen Ridge at No. 197, Montclair at No. 206, Nutley at No. 243, Maplewood at No. 246, South Orange at No. 254, Bloomfield at No. 360, West Orange at No. 372, Irvington at No. 374, Newark at No. 399, Belleville at No. 437, East Orange at No. 440 and, last in the state, Orange at No. 513.
The research team ranked each towns base on the following indicators: average residential tax bill in 2018; change in average property tax bill from 2016 to 2018; effective property tax rate for 2018; median home-sales price in 2018; change in median home-sales price from 2016 to 2018; average days homes were on the market in 2018; total crime rate in 2016; violent-crime rate in 2016; ranking in New Jersey Monthly’s Top Public High Schools chart published in 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 2 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.