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Property tax reform needed in New Jersey

Thirty-five states have county centralized assessment programs. New Jersey is now testing two different tax assessment models. The test is a municipal based assessor model vs. a county centralized assessor model. The Jeffersonian vs. Hamilton like models both have elements of merit. However, in practice, the county assessor model has so far proven superior.

The state says: “The existence of two programs under which the real property assessment function is performed using two different methods will allow the Legislature to evaluate the effectiveness of each system of real 
property assessment, and to determine whether the current statutory system of real property assessment function should be revised.”

In Monmouth County Assessment Demonstration Program tax news, we hear very little about the bigger picture, ending in a report in 2018. The tax experiments will be evaluated and compared.

Gloucester County’s program has been up and running for five years. New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney wrote the Gloucester County tax model. Sweeney, a former ironworker, built a tax reform program with the taxpayers in mind. Hopefully this model will be used in Monmouth County.

It is called the Tax Reform Act. The name says it all, reform. The law took assessment responsibility away from the local municipality. The towns are out of the assessment real estate appraisal business. The “county tax assessor” is the “sheriff” of taxes. The very best local assessors get seats as deputy county assessors, now they work countywide in sectors. The chain of command is clear and assessment checks and balances are by objective qualified experts, not unqualified or subjective localized opinions.

Gloucester County Pilot Program midterm review submitted to the State Board of Taxation as of 2014:

The Gloucester County Assessor’s Office is more efficient than the municipal-based assessment by 46 percent lower than the municipal cost. The county assessment system is more effective at maintaining municipalities to nearly true value. Appeals have fallen 64 percent reduction.

The Gloucester County model makes taxpayer sense, it is proactive and it has potential for true future reform. The visionary Tax Reform Act reduces costs and puts New Jersey on the right path to property tax reform, consolidation and shared services. Tax reform is what this is all about, not tax collecting.

 

Joseph J. Ferdinando

Freehold Township

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