TRENTON – Three pieces of legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner, Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez, and Senator Patrick Diegnan addressing property tax relief and government transparency for New Jersey residents cleared the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee today.
The first bill, S-1744, sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner, would require that tax bills, or the forms mailed with tax bills, include information listing the eligibility requirements for the various State property tax relief programs. The provisions of the bill require the Director of the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs to compile the list and provide each tax collector with inserts containing a listing of eligibility requirements for the various State property tax relief programs in effect for the tax year.
“Our state offers a variety of property tax relief programs, but we need to do a better job of informing the public of how to access them,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “Providing detailed information to residents with their tax bills will help to keep the public informed of the programs available to them to begin to help lower their property tax costs. The money saved can be used for other essentials, such as medicine, food, or utilities. It’s frustrating for homeowners to learn that they qualified for a property tax relief program and could have benefited and saved money for years, had they known earlier about the program and applied.”
Another bill, S-2557, sponsored by Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez, requires the Division of Local Government Services to post on its web page a summary of property tax data for each calendar year. Data such as the property tax levy for the previous year in each county, municipality, fire district, and school district in the State and certain statistical information the division that would be useful for the public’s understanding of the individual components that make up the taxpayer’s property tax bill. Furthermore, they would be provided to post the net average residential property tax bill in that area.
“This bill is about helping to inform the public and local property tax payers about the components of their property tax bills, as well as providing government transparency,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Additionally, this will allow individuals to compare and contrast previous years, and across multiple municipalities, encouraging efficiency. Technology has made it possible to make this important information readily available to anyone who wants it, and we should be taking full advantage of that.”
The final bill in this package is sponsored by Senator Patrick Diegnan. The bill, S-2452, requires the Director of Division of Taxation to promulgate a Property Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which would simplify in nontechnical terms the right of every property taxpayer so that they would understand their property assessment and how to appeal an assessment if a taxpayer believes it is too high. Further stipulations of the bill provide that a taxpayer has the right to understand the calculation of the assessment on their real property and the right to detailed information about how to appeal an assessment of real property.
“Property taxes are a significant cost for homeowners, yet many residents misunderstand the assessment process,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “It is critical to understand how the process works to make informed decisions. This will provide homeowners with information on the assessment and appeals process, which will allow residents to take the appropriate steps should they disagree with the assessment provided.”
The bills cleared the committee unanimously and will now head to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.