TRENTON — Data about how many residents get help and how much aid they receive on average from New Jersey's property tax relief programs is now online.
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs posted the information about the rebates, deductions and credits on its "Property Tax Data" tax chart earlier this month, along with the usual data detailing the average property tax bills and school, county, fire, open space and municipal tax rates and levies in each New Jersey town.
The data can be found at nj.gov/dca/divisions/dlgs/resources/property_tax.html.
The information is intended to offer some insight on each town's property tax bills and how the state's relief programs help offset them.
The data shows the average property tax bill last year in Burlington County was $6,682, which ranked 14th highest among New Jersey's 21 counties. The statewide average was $8,549.
Also, 44,522 Burlington County residents received Homestead property tax credits last year. The average credit awarded in the county under the program was $426.
The tax credit, previously a rebate, is given to seniors, disabled and low- and moderate-income residents.
The information about the average Homestead payments and its impact on the average property tax payment in each town was previously published on the department's online tax chart.
It was omitted in 2014 after online publication NJ Spotlight reported that Gov. Chris Christie had succeeded in slowing the rise of property taxes, but that many property owners were still paying more in property taxes than before he took office because of cuts he made to the program.
Christie claimed the information was misleading because not all residents qualify for the Homestead tax credits, and he repeatedly vetoed legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, that sought to restore the data to the DCA's website.
A compromise was finally reached last month after Christie and Democratic lawmakers agreed that the number of homeowners qualifying for the Homestead and other property tax relief programs would be listed, along with the average aid, but that the net impact on the average property tax bill would still not be listed.
While testifying before the Senate Budget Committee last week, DCA Commissioner Charles Richman revealed that the 2016 data was posted.
Singleton said the addition of the information on the state website would improve transparency and help residents understand their property tax bills. But he said more needs to be done by government to reduce the tax burden.
"The public deserves the right to all relevant information, and this law will help to inform the public about the components of their property tax bills, and to illustrate to the public that local spending decisions directly affect local property taxes. Additionally, the more information we provide the public, the less chance for misinterpretation and distrust of how these things work," Singleton said Wednesday.
"That said, our greater obligation beyond transparency is to lower the actual property tax bills that homeowners face. The work we are undertaking to address the school funding issue will go a long way towards accomplishing that goal," he added.
In addition to the Homestead tax credit data, the website lists town-by-town, county and statewide data about recipients of the state's Property Tax Reimbursement Program, commonly called the Senior Freeze, as well as the number of people awarded the property tax deductions for qualifying seniors, veterans, disabled veterans and widows of deceased veterans.
The Senior Freeze program gives eligible seniors and disabled residents reimbursement checks for any property tax increases that occur after they enroll.
Seniors age 65 and older and disabled residents who have lived in New Jersey for at least 10 years and have owned the same home for at least three years are eligible, provided their family income is below a cap, which has remained at $70,000 in recent years.
In Burlington County, 10,791 homeowners received the benefit last year; the reimbursement average was $960.
Statewide, 168,341 homeowners received the assistance, with amounts averaging $1,215.
A total of 2,513 Burlington County seniors over 65 and 406 disabled homeowners received the state's $250 senior and disabled property tax deductions.
A total of 11,456 veterans received the $250 property tax deduction, and 1,359 disabled veterans received the total property tax exemption.