Centerpiece Bills Focus on Property Tax Relief
TRENTON – In an effort to make it easier for senior citizens to ‘age in place’ in their communities, Senator Nia H. Gill today introduced a bill package designed to improve affordability and livability for aging adults. The centerpiece bills focus on providing property tax relief to seniors, many of whom struggle to afford to live out their later years in the communities where they built their lives. The bill package stems from a series of meetings the senator held with seniors in her legislative district.
“Many seniors are deciding to remain in their communities as they age. We owe it to our residents to ensure they are able to live out their golden years as they prefer, which for many residents is in their homes, and to maintain the high quality of life that they deserve,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “To do that, we have to ensure that our communities are affordable for seniors and that they offer a safe environment that is conducive to a healthy and active lifestyle. These bills would implement important changes that would make it easier for seniors to age in place.”
Research has shown that older adults prefer to stay in their home and communities as they age. Age friendly housing, transportation, social and employment opportunities are vital to promoting and supporting the well-being of aging residents. Affordable, accessible and suitable housing options can allow older adults to age in place and remain in their community their entire lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Communities with a safe and secure pedestrian environment, and near destinations such as libraries, stores, and places of worship, allow older adults to remain independent, active, and engaged.
“Older adults enjoy the many attractions New Jersey towns and cities offer and have a desire to remain in their communities where they can continue to live independent and active lives. For many seniors, the lack of affordability and accessibility can be barriers to doing so,” said Ann Lippel, chair of the Montclair Senior Citizens Advisory Committee. “Thanks to the work of Senator Gill and others, New Jersey is taking a leadership position in establishing age-friendly support systems for retirees who wish to age in their communities. I want to thank Senator Gill for undertaking these important initiatives which will enrich the quality of life for seniors across New Jersey.”
Two of the bills focus on helping to ease the property tax burden for seniors. The first bill would allow municipalities to create a program permitting residents age 60 or older to perform volunteer services for the municipality in which they live in return for property tax vouchers. The “Municipal Volunteer Property Tax Reduction Act” is modeled after a program in Lenox, Mass., and would allow seniors to receive vouchers for up to $1,000 of their property tax burden in the year the volunteer work is conducted.
A second bill would amend eligibility for the Senior Freeze program to allow eligible seniors who relocate within the same municipality to a home of equal of lesser value to resume eligibility for the property tax relief program at the new residence, preventing them from having to wait another year to qualify again for the program. Current law requires an eligible resident to wait until the second full year after the move to resume eligibility to receive a reimbursement in connection with the new home. The bill would provide a reimbursement the first full year a claimant lives in the home. It would establish as the claimant’s base year – at which property taxes are ‘frozen’ – the tax year immediately preceding the first full tax year the claimant resides in the new home.
Two additional bills focus on improving transportation for seniors in the community. One bill would permit towns, cities and parking authorities to create a parking program to offer reduced cost and designated parking to seniors. Under a Senior Citizen Priority Parking Program authorized by a municipality or parking authority, seniors could receive reduced rate parking permits and program-restricted parking spaces. Another bill would create the Pedestrian Safety Study Commission to review, analyze and report on a number of issues related to pedestrian safety, including the type of motor vehicle violations that are contributing factors in pedestrian accidents and possible legislative and regulatory solutions, including the imposition of fines for violating pedestrian laws.
The final bill in the package, SCR 140, was introduced by Senator Gill last month and proposes a constitutional amendment to dedicate up to one-half of one percent of annual gross revenues of certain cable television companies for assistance to eligible senior citizens and people with disabilities.
“These are important bills that will help to improve the ability of seniors to continue to live for many years in the communities that they love,” said Senator Gill. “I want to thank the members of the Montclair Senior Citizens Advisory Committee for their input on the challenges they are facing, which helped to formulate this bill package. I look forward to continuing our work together and to moving this legislation forward.”