(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana, Troy Singleton, Paul Moriarty, Shavonda Sumter, Eric Houghtaling and Angela McKnight to help senior residents cut their property tax bills though volunteerism was approved Thursday by the full Assembly, 73-0.
Under the bill (A-612), 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.
"Property taxes in this state are some of the highest in the country. For seniors who are retired and living on fixed incomes, making those payments can be a real struggle," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Tax relief must be approached from every angle, and this is one way to give seniors some breathing room. Residents who volunteer would also be helping fill a local need, which would help municipalities trying to meet the needs of residents while keeping municipal costs down."
"Many seniors are living on fixed incomes. Meanwhile, we have municipalities that are cutting or scaling back services because of budgetary restrictions," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "This could help lessen the property tax burden on retirees, while providing needed services to municipalities."
"Making ends meet can be challenging, especially for retired homeowners," 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."
"Many seniors will welcome the tax relief and the opportunity to help their municipality," said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). "Municipalities should be allowed to explore these options for their residents."
"Many residents currently lend their time to volunteering in their communities," said Houghtaling (D- Monmouth). "This program provides an even greater incentive and opportunity for senior volunteers to earn a reward worth their time."
"New Jersey residents, especially retired homeowners on a fixed income, need property tax relief," said McKnight (D-Hudson). "Allowing municipalities to initiate A Volunteer Property Tax Reduction Program could provide the much-needed relief for residents."
Under this program, a municipality would determine the type of volunteer services that a resident may perform, and the amount of property tax credits, up to $1,000 per resident 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.
Under the bill, a municipality that creates a volunteer program would not be allowed to utilize volunteers for any position for which a salary is budgeted in the municipal budget. Volunteers could only be utilized by a municipality for non-professional, non-salaried positions or uses.
The bill was released by the Assembly State & Local Government Committee on April 4. It will now go to the Senate for further consideration.