Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Pamela Lampitt, Annette Quijano, Eliana Pintor Marin, Benjie Wimberly and Joann Downey to require the state to annually post complete property tax data was released Thursday by the Assembly.
The bill comes after the Christie administration last year deleted property tax data traditionally found on the Department of Community Affairs web site. The information detailed Christie's cuts to property tax relief that resulted in a net property tax increase of about 20 percent.
"Hiding or deleting vital property tax information is not the right way to govern," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "The public deserves the right to all relevant information, and this bill will help to inform the public at large, and local property taxpayers individually, about the components of their property tax bills, and to illustrate to the public that local spending decisions directly affect local property taxes."
"This would also help local property taxpayers compare how well their local units of government are doing against local units in other parts of the state," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "Just as importantly, it would force the executive branch to stand behind their decisions on property tax relief, whether it's good news or bad news."
"Open and honest government is paramount," said Quijano (D-Union). "The administration should not try to hide information that reflects poorly on its own decisions and storylines. The more information provided, the better it is for taxpayers."
"Less information is never better," said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). "When it comes to taxpayer spending, more information is a required must. No one should hide from their decisions to cut property tax relief. Transparency is always the better option."
"The more information we provide the public, the less chance for misinterpretation and distrust of how these things work," said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Keeping relevant information from taxpayers in order to detract from flawed decision-making is a disservice to the public."
"Trying to keep taxpayers in the dark about where increases to their property tax bills stem from is disingenuous," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "We have some of the highest property taxes in the country. Property owners deserve to have as much pertinent information as possible."
The bill (A-312) would require the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs to post on its website a summary of property tax data for the current calendar year, and for each of the immediately preceding 10 calendar years.
The property tax data summary would provide the public with information about the property tax levy for the previous year in each county, municipality, fire district, and school district in the state, and would include such other statistical information as the division deems useful for the public's understanding of the individual components that make up each taxpayer's property tax bill.
In each year, the data provided must include, but not be limited to: the amount of the average residential property tax bill for each municipality in the state; the amount of the average homestead credit payment credited against the average property tax bill; and the net average residential property tax bill, which would be the remainder of the average residential property tax bill minus the average homestead credit payment.
The bill would also require that other property tax data, such as individual property tax levies for certain portions of local budgets, be provided as well.
The bill was approved 75-0-2 by the Assembly and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.