TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, Assembly Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli and Assemblywoman Celeste Riley which will create a pilot program in Gloucester County to merge municipal property tax assessors into a countywide office was signed into law yesterday by Governor Corzine.
“New Jersey’s property taxes are too high, and the root of the problem is bloated, inefficient government,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Thorofare. “We can find better ways to provide the same level of services in a more cost-effective manner through shared services and regionalization. In Gloucester County, we’ve already saved millions for county taxpayers through service sharing, and a countywide tax assessment pilot is the next step.”
“A county tax assessment system will help address the shortcomings of the municipal assessment system, streamline government and save money,” said Assemblywoman Riley, D-Bridgeton. “It makes sense on many levels, and this program will find out whether it works.”
“Under our current system, each municipality assesses property at a different percentage of market value and each municipality has its own assessor.” said Assemblyman Burzichelli, D-Paulsboro. “This is an inefficient, antiquated system that causes some property taxpayers to subsidize others. We can do better.”
The bill, S-2356/A-3722, will eliminate municipal tax assessors’ offices in Gloucester County and replace them with a more cost-efficient county office over a three-year period. Municipalities in the county will be required to have a property revaluation during this first three-year period to create a “level playing field;” however, municipalities that have implemented revaluation within the preceding 24 months will be exempt from this latest round of revaluation.
The sponsors noted that Gloucester County would bear the cost of administering the new system, saving municipalities the future expense. The Gloucester County pilot program would be studied by the “Local Unit Reorganization and Consolidation Commission” to determine the feasibility of exporting the program to other counties around the State.
The three sponsors added that Gloucester County makes an ideal candidate for such a pilot program for a number of reasons. In land area and population density, Gloucester County falls within the middle of New Jersey’s 21 counties, making it a good representation for other counties in the State. And the county has already begun experimenting with county-wide or regional services to save money in other areas, including emergency management, county school administration, stormwater management, arson and explosion investigations, the county SWAT team, and records management.
The bill, which is also sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Oroho, R-Sussex, Hunterdon and Morris, was approved by both Houses of the Legislature in June.