Why New Jersey Is Still No. 1 for Property Taxes

If there is one thing that unifies residents of New Jersey, particularly in these divisive times, it's property taxes: Everybody hates them.

One of the Garden State's chief claims to fame -- besides The Sopranos and The Boss -- is the fact that its residents pay the highest property taxes in the country. A recent study from the Tax Foundation confirmed this yet again, finding that New Jerseyeans paid median taxes of $6,579 in 2009. Seven out of the nation's top 10 counties for property taxes are in New Jersey. This infuriates residents and is a regular topic on talk radio. It should be no surprise that property tax appeals are up 44% in the state, according to the Newark Star-Ledger

Fixing the state's property tax system is one of the top priorities of Gov. Chris Christie, who defeated incumbent Jon Corzine because of widespread dissatisfaction over the hated levy. He is now a rising star in the Republican party who spearheaded legislation to cap property tax increases at 2%. Earlier, this year, Christie slashed the state's contribution to education by $820 million to ease the burden on property taxpayers, which prompted a showdown with the New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union.

"People have an emotional reaction to it," says Deborah Howlett, president of the Trenton-based think tank New Jersey Policy Perspectives, which is often critical of Christie, in an interview . "It's understandable ... [but] New Jersey is almost completely reliant on property taxes to fund local schools and government."

In the Garden State, All the Taxes Are High

Other states, including some near the top of the high property tax list, permit local governments to levy their own sales and income taxes. New Hampshire and Connecticut, both high property tax states, also don't allow local sales taxes.

"Looking at property tax alone does not tell one much of anything," says Iris Lav, a senior adviser at the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, in an email. "People in jurisdictions that have local sales taxes do not necessarily pay less tax because their property taxes are lower; they may just pay the taxes in another form."

William Ahern, spokesman for the Tax Foundation, rejects this argument, noting that New Jersey's other taxes are high as well. "New Jersey really has no excuse," he says. Residents shell out 11.8% of their incomes on state and local taxes, the highest state and local tax burden in the country, according to the Tax Foundation, well above the national average of 9.7%. The figure also includes taxes that residents who commute pay to states such as New York.

New Jersey residents also pay high fees, high tolls and high car insurance rates The state has 566 municipalities with more than 560 mayors and 13,000 elected and appointed officials, according to the New Jersey League of Municipalities. New Jersey's 588 school districts employ about 200,000 people. Officials have argued for years that small towns and school districts should merge, although there is debate about whether consolidation would save money.

A Bipartisan Loathing for the Levy

Like the other high property tax states, New Jersey residents voted backed Barack Obama for president in 2008 over his Republican rival John McCain. The reverse holds true for the low tax states, which supported McCain. Politics does not tell the whole story, however: Officials everywhere from both parties regularly vow to hold the line on the hated tax.

In California, property tax increases have been severely limited by Proposition 13, which was passed in 1978. Some officials say the law is at least partly to blame for California's current budget crisis because it made the state overly reliant on the income tax. The issue is being debated in local races ranging from the mayor's office in Orlando to governors races in Connecticut and Iowa

"This autumn, as Iowa homeowners and businesses open their property tax statements, they will be reminded of the state's increasing reliance on those taxes," writes Ed Wallace of the Iowa Taxpayers Association in the Des Moines Register. "Sticker shock has arrived and hardworking Iowans can't keep paying the bill."

According to the Tax Foundation, the top states for states for median real estate taxes in 2009 besides New Jersey were; Connecticut ($4,738); New Hampshire ($4,636); New York ($3,755); Rhode Island ($3,618); Massachusetts ($3,511); Illinois ($3,507); Vermont ($3,444); Wisconsin ($3,007); and California ($2,893). The bottom five were South Carolina ($689), Arkansas ($532), Mississippi ($508), West Virginia ($464), Alabama ($398) and Louisiana ($243). The data comes from the Census Bureau.

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you can find out property tax information at http://www.zamloo.com . it is free to use, and you can compare properties nearby, or find similar homes sold price recently in the area.

December 23 2012 at 2:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You can find out if you are actually overpaying your real estate taxes by visiting www.realestatetaxexperts.com . they only charge $99 and well worth it.

After they informed me my taxes were overassessed I fought them and my taxes were reduced over $1,200 per year!

November 25 2011 at 3:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That is why they have a teacher's union that is so strong in NJ. My sister taught there and each district was able to negotiate wages and benefits. She retired at age 54 set for life with her pension, and was paid $130 a day for 130 of un used sick days as well. I teach in South Carolina, where we have very low property taxes, an underfunded educational system, and no teacher's union. What trade-off do we want is the question? Better opportunities for our children, and then pay more taxes and pay our teachers a LOT of money, or accept the fact that we will have less choices for our children, and pay our public servants less in order to save money on our property taxes. It all depends on what the public wants. I know that the word tax means evil here, so we will have to live with the reputation (deserved or not) of having a bad educational system. Yet in NJ they have probably gone too far the other way, and it may be out of hand.

October 10 2010 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I noticed they didnt include Texas?? I pay out the KAZOO, because we are schooling( not teaching) all of Mexico, aka illegal aliens!!

October 10 2010 at 11:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Note that the bottom 5 in property taxes are also the bottom 5 in education.

October 10 2010 at 10:21 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Crissy doesn't want to create 6000 jobs in needed infrastructure, he prefers to fire teachers in NJ. Why are people so surprised that the unemployment rate keeps skyrocketing in Jersey? It is a clear lack of leadership.

October 10 2010 at 6:12 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

You left off Maine. One of the highest in Tax. I pay over $4000 for a home worth 250,000. Maine is considered in the top ten in highest taxes and lowest in earninf per capita.

October 10 2010 at 5:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Puhlese! I pay 8,300.00 for the house I own. Excuse me the bank owns. I live on Long Island. My home is typical 3 bedroom two bath house. I am getting away with murder. Some of the newer homes (mini mansions), are paying 22,000 p/y. Eat that. I can't live here much longer, my son and I are out of work. So are over 100,000.oo on Log Island. AND HOW DO YOU ALL LIVE???

October 10 2010 at 4:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

At age 62 in Ga you are exempt from school taxes. I guess most of us older people have only grandchildren and the parents must pay school taxes. My property tax on 104,000 is 162.00. Also as a veteran my car tag is free and so is my drivers permit free. Ya'll please don't rush on down.

October 10 2010 at 3:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Big Larry

You forgot about Oakland County. A suburb of Detroit's Wayne County. Annual property tax $6,500.00

October 10 2010 at 1:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply