NJ Property Taxes, Highest in U.S., Rise Again

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.”

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.

Tax Cap

Limiting spending growth and property-tax increases are more effective tools for controlling 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.

Lisa Ryan, a spokeswoman for the state Community Affairs department, which tracks the property-tax data, declined to immediately comment on the figures.

Property taxes in New Jersey have increased 66 percent since 2001, when they averaged $4,661, the data show.

Christie this month proposed reducing income-tax rates for every state resident by 10 percent 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.

To contact the reporter on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton at tdopp@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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