The average property tax bill in New Jersey topped $9,000 for the first time ever last year, according to new data released Feb. 8 from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
That meant a rise of $159 in 2020 to an average property tax bill of $9,112. Some counties are considerably higher, with Bergen, Essex and Union counties all marking tax bills above $12,000. Hunterdon, Morris and Somerset counties all had tax bills above $10,000.
Democrats who now control both houses of Congress are pushing to lift the $10,000 federal cap on state and local property tax deductions, which was included in the Republican-led federal tax cuts in 2017.
At the other end of the spectrum, Salem County in South Jersey had an average property tax bill of less than $6,000. The annual DCA data, released on Feb. 4, includes the tax rate and other data for all 565 municipalities in 2020
High taxes and New Jersey often go hand-in-hand in political discussions.
Gov. Phil Murphy has long-argued that New Jersey is a “good value for money state,” that is, high taxes go toward access to educational opportunities through their K-12 system, and access to New York City and several global transportation hubs.
But he caught flak in October 2019, when he dismissed concerns raised about the high tax rate in the state.
“If you’re a one-issue voter and tax rate is your issue, either a family or a business, if that’s the only basis upon which you’re going to make a decision, we’re probably not your state,” he said during an appearance at Rowan University in Glassboro.
That drew the ire of Republicans and business groups, who’ve warned that the high cost of living and doing business in the state will ultimately drive people out of New Jersey.
Since taking office in 2018, the state’s average property tax bill rose 4% from $8,767 to $9,112 – incremental changes which he said were evidence that his administration was “delivering on our promise to provide property tax stability while restoring New Jersey’s fiscal standing and growing our economy.”
Expanded state aid to schools, Murphy argued, was key to taking the pressure off local taxes to finance schools.
“Every new dollar in school funding is a new dollar of property tax relief,” the governor said at his February 2020 budget address. “Every new dollar we provide is a dollar that doesn’t have to come out of the pockets of property taxpayers.”
Former-Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, signed a 2% cap in 2010 on annual property tax increases, meant to rein in the 4% to 7% annual tax bill increases year over year.
Murphy rejected a bill last year that would have let the state’s 40 poorest school districts raise taxes beyond that cap.