Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Joseph Lagana, Troy Singleton and Paul Moriarty to help senior residents cut their property tax bills though volunteerism received final legislative approval last week and now heads to the governor's desk.
Lagana said the bill is part of his broader tax reform effort, which also includes bills to revise New Jersey's tax structure, provide property tax reform, cut government spending and improve efficiency, consolidate local government and promote shared services and provide middle-class property tax relief.
"This would be another piece of the effort to reform New Jersey's tax system to ease the burden on middle-class families and senior citizens," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This needs to be a multi-pronged, creative effort, and this is something different we can try. Residents who volunteer will also be helping fill a local need, so in the end this would be a true win-win for everyone in the shared goal of tax relief."
Under the bill (A-4067), any municipality could create a Municipal Volunteer Property Tax Reduction Program to permit residents age 60 years or older who have owned and lived in a home in the municipality for at least 15 years total to volunteer their services to the municipality.
In return, the resident would be rewarded with property tax credits not to exceed $1,000 per tax year.
"This is definitely an innovative approach to easing the property tax burden for seniors," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Given that many live on fixed incomes after retirement, every little bit of savings can help. And in turn they're doing a great service to their town so everybody benefits."
"Property taxes in this state are some of the highest in the country. Making ends meet can be challenging, especially for older homeowners living on limited means," said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). "This allows residents to contribute to their communities while cutting back on their expenses, and enables municipalities to meet needs that would otherwise go unfulfilled."
Under this program, a municipality would determine the type of volunteer services that these residents may perform, and the amount of property tax credits, up to $1,000 per tax year, that a volunteer shall be awarded for his or her service. The amount of property tax credit awarded per hour of volunteer work must be the state minimum hourly wage rate. Property tax credits earned under this program shall not carry over from year to year, and credits earned in a tax year shall be applied to the municipal purposes property taxes due and owing only for that tax year.
A municipality that creates a volunteer program cannot utilize volunteers for any position for which a salary is budgeted in the municipal budget. Volunteers can only be utilized by a municipality for non-professional, non-salaried positions or uses.
"Volunteers make for a better community, so anything we can do encourage volunteering is a good thing," Lagana said. "Meanwhile, tax relief is good for everyone, and anything we can do to provide it is also a good thing. Tax relief must be approached from every angle, and this is a creative way to provide some much-needed help."
The bill was approved 70-0 by the Assembly, and 35-0 by the Senate on Dec. 17.