Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Democratic Assembly members Daniel Benson, Celeste Riley, Mila Jasey, Wayne DeAngelo and Albert Coutinho to save taxpayer money by pooling resources county-wide to conduct property assessments was advanced by an Assembly panel.
The sponsors noted that the legislation is particularly timely in the wake of Superstorm Sandy as hard-hit towns struggle with the burden of conducting massive numbers of reassessments on properties that were destroyed or severely damaged.
“We need a better system that saves taxpayers money by streamlining and sharing services, while providing relief to towns facing losses from tax appeals,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex).
”Protecting taxpayers needs to be our priority, and we need to try new and different ways. This is an approach that offers potential savings and deserves an opportunity to succeed.”
The bill (A-3939) would create a property assessment demonstration program that would be open for participation by up to four counties to demonstrate a more cost-effective and accurate property assessment program to save taxpayers money.
“We need more consolidation and sharing of services if we’re to bring real savings to taxpayers, and this is a sensible way to do just that as we look to tackle property taxes,” said Riley (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “It makes sense that countywide assessments would save money and resolve confusion and conflicts, so it’s definitely worth exploring.”
“The current system is unwieldy and confusing to taxpayers, local governments and counties alike, so we should be trying to simplify it and save money at the same time,” said Jasey (D-Essex). “Promoting service sharing that saves money is smart and appropriate. No one can reasonably argue that this isn’t worth a try.”
Under the bill, each municipality in a chosen county would use the same property assessment software, and all future revaluations and reassessments will be performed on that system. The system will also be used for other assessment-based functions, such as the development of a compliance plan, maintenance of assessments and the calculation of added assessments.
“Any innovation that can save taxpayer money is worth a shot,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “If this program proves a more sensible and modern assessment system can work, then we can look to expand it statewide and reap the benefits by controlling the most painful tax for New Jersey’s working families.”
“Examining new approaches that can benefit the taxpayers is always the right thing to do,” said Coutinho (D-Essex). “It seems like this system would be an improvement, so we’ll see how it works in four counties and go from there.”
Under the bill, no more than four counties may participate in the program as demonstration counties; no more than two in the first two full tax years after the bill’s enactment, and not more than two more in the third and fourth full tax years after the bill’s enactment.
The sponsors noted that no state funds will be necessary for the implementation of this demonstration program. The county board of taxation in a demonstration county will absorb the cost through assessment appeal filing fees already collected by the board.
In fact, the county tax board, by resolution, must certify to the Director of the Division of Taxation and to the Director of the Division of Local Government Services that it has sufficient funds available to pay all of the costs associated with the demonstration program.
The bill requires Director of the Division of Taxation and the Director of the Division of Local Government Services to provide to the Governor and to the Legislature, not later than July 1 following the fourth full tax year after the implementation of the demonstration program, a report detailing the successes of the program, any problems experienced under the program and any recommendations for statutory or administrative changes to the current system of real property assessment in the state.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.