January 30, 2012, 7:29 PM EST
by Terrence Dopp
(Adds comment from senator in last paragraph.)
Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) — New Jersey’s property taxes, the highest in the nation, climbed 2.4 percent on average to a high of $7,759 in 2011, according to data posted on a state website.
The gain follows a 4.1 percent jump in real estate taxes, the prime funding source for schools and local governments, in 2010. after property-tax rebates and credits, the average bill was $7,519 in 2011, up 20 percent from 2009, the data show.
New Jersey governors before Chris Christie used rebates and credits to help residents deal with their rising real estate bills. Christie, a Republican who took office in January 2010, scaled back the payments in his first budget. in 2009, residents got $1,037 in rebates back on average. last year, the average was $240.
“We’ve tried these programs for 30 years and they haven’t worked,” Christie, 49, said of the rebates. “it doesn’t make sense to take money out of peoples’ right pockets to put it back in their left one.”
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The 2.4 percent increase last year was the smallest in at least a decade. Property taxes increased about 7 percent annually in 2004, 2005 and 2006 before the rate began to slow.
New Jersey’s property taxes have climbed 66 percent since 2001, when they averaged $4,661, the data show. Limiting local spending growth and tax increases are more effective ways to control the levies in the long term than giving rebates and credits, Christie told reporters today.
Christie enacted a 2 percent cap on property taxes that took effect at the beginning of 2011. The measure reduced the 4 percent limit enacted by Christie’s predecessor, Democrat Jon Corzine. it also cut the number of exemptions to four from 14.
Under the Corzine system, towns sought cap waivers from the state’s Local Finance Board. Christie’s measure required a voter referendum. in April, 14 of 566 communities asked voters to exceed the cap, and just two increases were approved.
Including a credit that appeared on may 2011 bills, last year’s increase was 1.7 percent, Richard Constable, acting commissioner of the state Community Affairs Department, which tracks the property-tax data, said in an e-mailed statement.
Local spending increases are at record lows, Constable said. in 2011, 128 towns reduced their tax levy or increased it less than 1 percent, compared with 86 municipalities in 2010.
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Christie this month proposed a 10 percent income-tax cut for every state resident to provide relief from the “burden that has strangled our families and forced many to move away.” Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, say Christie’s proposal would favor the wealthy, and they want to focus on relieving pressure from property taxes.
David Rosen, the Legislature’s chief budget analyst, said Christe’s tax cut would cost the state $150 million in fiscal 2013, which begins in July, and that expense would rise to $1.3 billion in fiscal 2016.
Taxpayers making as much as $200,000 pay more in property taxes than income taxes, while higher earners pay more in income taxes than property taxes, Rosen said today during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Christie’s plan.
“for middle-class families trying to make ends meet; for senior citizens on fixed incomes; for working people struggling in hard times; it’s the property tax that is the real burden,” said Senator Paul Sarlo, a Democrat from Wood-Ridge and chairman of the committee.
–Editors: Stacie Servetah, Mark Schoifet
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