TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Stephen M. Sweeney today said he is gathering support to establish a state-funded, county-wide tax assessment pilot program for Gloucester County to replace the current municipal system.
“It’s clear we’ll save money for taxpayers, increase efficiencies and streamline government services with a county-based assessment system,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland.
Senator Sweeney said he has received “significant positive feedback” from legislative colleagues since he proposed S-2356 on Thursday to establish a six-year pilot program under a tax assessor for Gloucester County who would be charged with completing a real property revaluation within three years in every municipality.
“Gloucester County will make a good test area for the assessment pilot program because its size and population are about in the middle of the 21 counties in New Jersey so we can compare results with both the larger and smaller counties,” said Senator Sweeney who also serves as Freeholder Director in Gloucester County.
Funding for the pilot program would be provided from appropriations set aside in the State budget for consolidation efforts in the wake of the special legislative joint sessions held three years ago to increase efficiencies and eliminate waste and duplication at every level of government, Senator Sweeney said.
“There’s been a lot of talk about cutting waste in government, but this proposal will produce some results,” he said.
Gloucester County is emerging as a statewide leader in shared services after a successful venture in initiating the State’s first Emergency Medical Services effort enlisted 12 of the county’s 24 municipalities in its first year and produced record-setting response times for help calls.
State certified municipal assessors currently working in Gloucester County would be prime candidates for the county assessor’s team of deputy assessors, Senator Sweeney said.
“As it is now, each municipality within a county assesses its property at a different percentage of market value which requires that property be equalized to apportion county taxes,” Senator Sweeney noted.
In addition, political decisions to postpone municipal revaluations force some property taxpayers to subsidize other taxpayers for many years, he said.
“With a county assessment system, fairness can be expedited and costs can be shifted away from the local level so this is just something that makes sense,” Senator Sweeney said.
Under the Sweeney bill, the county tax assessor would serve an initial five-year term and then receive tenure upon reappointment by the county. To ensure an orderly transition, a phase-in period of three years would be allotted for the complete transfer from municipal to county assessments. The initial county revaluation could be waived in a municipality where one was completed within the previous 18 months.
The bill would require the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission, in consultation with the Director of the Division of Taxation, to issue a report on the effectiveness of the pilot program by February 1st of the sixth year of its creation.