The big property tax promise

Bloustein Local Government | News

Seniors in N.J. were promised a big property tax break. Will it happen? They miss many things about New Jersey: the pizza, the Jersey Shore, and their friends.

But what the former Middlesex County couple doesn’t miss, they said, is their high property tax bill.

Several years ago, Linda and Louis Principe ditched a $16,000 property tax bill on their five-bedroom Colonial in Plainsboro, downsizing in 2011 to Monroe and a smaller tax bill of $8,000. But by 2019, that bill grew to $12,000, they said.

That’s when they decided to go. The Principes are among thousands of older residents who either willingly or reluctantly have abandoned the Garden State because of high taxes in recent years, taking with them their disposable income. In an effort to keep more seniors here, New Jersey last year came up with a tempting counter-offer: Stay NJ, a law intended to cut property taxes by up to 50% on primary residences for those who are 65 and older and earn less than $500,000 a year, starting in 2026. The maximum benefit would be $6,500.

The Senior Freeze, which reimburses eligible senior citizens and disabled persons for property tax increases, had new income limit increases and simplified residency requirements, allowing more people to qualify for the 2023 benefit year.

Altogether, the state’s tax break programs are a confusing jumble piled on top of each other, said Marc Pfeiffer, assistant director of the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers University. “From a government administration standpoint, from a public understanding standpoint, it’s getting confusing,” he said.

Delaying the start of the program beyond 2026, or cutting the initial 50% payout with the goal of ramping it up in future years, are also plausible fixes, experts said.

“My expectation is the Legislature has made such a commitment to Stay NJ that something labeled Stay NJ is going to come out of the process,” Pfeiffer said., February 25, 2024