Bill Would Extend Gloucester County Tax Assessment Pilot Program to Counties Statewide
TRENTON – In an effort to encourage consolidation and shared services among municipal and county governments and to save taxpayer dollars, Senator Jeff Van Drew sponsored legislation that would allow for the expansion of GloucesterCounty’s county-wide tax assessment pilot program to counties across New Jersey. The bill was approved today by a Senate Committee.
“By streamlining the process for property assessment at a county-wide level, we can ensure that assessments are timely and that home and business owners can feel confident they have a fair assessment for their property that reflects market conditions. This could mean lower property taxes for many residents,” said Senator Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic. “Under the current system, property owners could be paying taxes under assessments that are outdated, inflated or inconsistent with neighboring communities. This should no longer be an issue with a county-wide system.”
The bill (S-1801) would modernize property-tax assessment in participating counties by moving the responsibility of assessment from the municipal level to the county. In counties that elect the new system, the freeholder board would appoint a county assessor. Over a three-year period, municipal tax assessors’ offices would be eliminated and replaced with a more cost-effective county office. Municipalities in a participating county would be required to have a property revaluation during this first three-year period to create a “level playing field.” However, municipalities that have implemented a revaluation within the preceding 24 months could be granted an exemption from reevaluation in the first three years if, in the opinion of the county assessor, the reevaluation resulted in accurate valuations.
The legislation is an expansion of a Senate President Steve Sweeney-sponsored pilot program that created a county-wide property tax assessment program in GloucesterCounty beginning in 2009. The initial pilot program was in response to recommendations made by the 2006 Joint Legislative Committee on Government Consolidation and Shared Services.
Senator Van Drew noted that AtlanticCounty would be a great candidate for the expansion of this pilot program since so much of its tax ratables are driven by casinos, which have suffered with both a loss in revenue and property values since the recession. This has led casinos to successfully appeal their assessments to Atlantic City at a cost millions of dollars to the city and county. More regularly held assessments could help avoid this problem.
“When a large business successfully appeals a tax assessment, towns and counties are often faced with a major hole in their budgets that has to be made up with service reductions or tax increases,” said Senator Van Drew. “Allowing counties to move from the antiquated system of local property tax assessment to a more centralized, county-based system will ensure more consistent and regularly held revaluations. This will go a long way to help local governments avoid a last-minute budget problem while also helping to cut costs.”
The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee approved the bill by a vote of 4-0-1.