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Van Drew Bill To Expand Property Tax Relief Clears Committee

Measure Would Expand Homestead Property Tax Reimbursement Benefit to More Surviving Spouses

TRENTON – The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic, to expand the State’s property tax relief program, commonly known as the “Senior Freeze,” to more surviving spouses of deceased participants.

The measure, a Senate Committee Substitute for S-593, S-880 and S-1111, would lower to 62 the minimum age a surviving spouse of a participant in the State’s Homestead Property Tax Reimbursement Program can continue receiving the property tax relief benefit for the same home.

Senator Van Drew introduced legislation to lower the age threshold after learning that a constituent from Buena Borough, Atlantic County, was hit with a property tax hike after the 2006 death of her husband, who had participated in the senior freeze program for several years.

The woman was 64 years old at the time; she missed the age 65 eligibility requirement for the program benefit by 11 days. After losing the freeze, the property taxes on the home she once shared with her husband jumped to $4,566 a year, up $1,533 from the $3,033 annual bill the couple was locked into under the program.

“Seniors grieving the loss of a loved one should not be forced to shoulder the additional burden of an unexpected increase in property taxes. This bill would ensure that more surviving spouses of our vulnerable senior and disabled residents continue to receive the financial relief they depended on under the State’s property tax relief program,” said Senator Van Drew, chairman of the Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

Surviving spouses age 65 and older are already eligible to carry over the benefit once provided to their loved one under New Jersey’s Homestead Property Tax Reimbursement Program.

“This bill would make a minor change in the program, but would go a long way in ensuring more residents, many who are on a fixed income, continue receiving much-needed property tax relief and do not experience undue stress during such an extraordinarily difficult time in their lives,” said Senator Van Drew.

Under the “Senior Freeze” program, the state reimburses eligible applicants for the difference between the amount of property taxes paid during any given year and the amount paid in property taxes the year they became eligible for the program.

To qualify initially for the Homestead Property Tax Reimbursement Program, homeowners must be at least 65 years old or disabled, or both, and must meet income eligibility requirements. They must also have lived 10 consecutive years with their principal residence in New Jersey, at least three of those as a homeowner, and paid property taxes during that period either directly or indirectly through rental payments.

The committee substitute was approved by a vote of 4-0-1. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.