Well-deserved, but underfunded
It’s not often we support turning to the state to pay for something on a local level.
But we believe the dilemma some municipalities face over the property tax exemption for qualified disabled veterans in New Jersey calls for the state to provide the resources.
After all, it was the state that instituted the exemption. Since 2006, a New Jersey statute has required property tax exemptions for permanently and totally disabled veterans and their surviving spouses or surviving registered domestic partners.
You will get no argument from us that those who fought for this country and the spouses who sacrificed so they could serve deserve the tax break. They’ve earned it.
Yet no matter how well-deserved, the exemptions are wreaking havoc with the municipalities that have to fill the hole they leave in their budgets.
There were 8,517 permanently and totally disabled veterans in the Garden State in 2012, which is a total tax exemption of nearly $54 million.
Willingboro and Pemberton Township have the largest number of 100 percent permanently disabled veterans of any towns in the state, with 302 and 195 residents, respectively, and are struggling to pick up the financial slack.
Assemblymen Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, and Herb Conaway, D-7th of Delanco, want the state to offer towns reimbursement assistance.
The revenue shortfall these municipalities experience is not insignificant. Willingboro officials have indicated that they expect a revenue loss of $1.56 million, or about 3 cents of the local tax rate, due to the exemptions.
Conaway and Singleton have introduced legislation that would require the state to reimburse municipalities with 100 or more permanently and totally disabled veterans for 25 percent of the tax revenue they lose to the exemptions, up to a maximum of $2.5 million annually.
Under the terms of the proposal, Pemberton Township and Willingboro would be among the nine towns eligible for assistance.
The $360,000 in aid Willingboro would receive would provide at least some relief to the town, which currently can look only to its remaining taxpayers to pick up the slack.
Veterans have sacrificed so much — they left their families, fought, were injured, and would have died for their country if called upon. While in uniform, veterans who call New Jersey home have battled for all of us, and we should all bear some of the financial burden of the state mandate. Until the issue is addressed at the federal level, we believe the state should help fund it, and we support the legislation to do that.