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These 30 N.J. towns have the highest property tax burdens in the state

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New Jersey's property taxes are frequently cited among the highest in the nation. A list of the state's 30 towns with the heaviest tax burden based on income versus tax rate may be a surprise, especially since they are made up of small, older suburbs.

Gov. Chris Christie said in his annual State of the State speech on Tuesday, "I will have more to say about New Jersey's taxes when I present my budget to you next month. That is for a reason."

Well, maybe he should talk to Dr. Ernest Reock Jr., who has plenty to say. As a researcher at the Rutgers' Center for Government Services in New Brunswick, he sent out a release on Thursday that found high levels of municipal and school spending are rarely responsible for tax burdens in the states burdened municipalities.

The reality, says Reock, is much more complicated than that.

Roeck notes in the study that the most common approach for determining the burden of property taxes is to look at the property tax rates. But that doesn't take into account the personal financial resources of the people who own the property in a given municipality, a factor that weighs heavily in determining just how heavy that burden could be.

So Roeck used the most recent complete data set, from 2008, to calculate what he calls the "property tax burden index," and then he ranked municipalities based on that number.

He calculated the index using the equalized net property tax rate and the percentage of residential income against which property tax is levied in each municipality.

What does that mean? Equalized net property tax rates were retrieved from the state Division of Taxation. The property tax calculation used in the study ignores commercial, industrial and non-homestead farm property taxes because those decrease the property tax burden on residents themselves. Both determinations are explained in more detail in the early pages of Roeck's paper, which is embedded beneath this article.

Specifically, his findings show the tax burden hurt residents of older suburbs that usually have low property tax bases and limited personal incomes among their residents.

The top 30 most heavily taxed N.J. towns:

30. Magnolia (Camden County)
29. Washington Borough (Warren County)
28. Mount Ephraim (Camden County)
27. Pompton Lakes (Passaic County)
26. Pohatcong (Warren County)
25. Willingboro (Burlington County)
24. Irvington (Essex County)
23. Newton (Sussex County)
22. Bloomingdale (Passaic County)
21. Ridgefield Park (Bergen County)
20. Glassboro (Gloucester County)
19. Barrington (Camden County)
18. Somerdale (Camden County)
17. Stratford (Camden County)
16. North Plainfield (Somerset County)
15. Penns Grove (Salem County)
14. Prospect Park (Passaic County)
13. East Orange (Essex County)
12. Haledon (Passaic County)
11. High Bridge (Hunterdon County)
10. Lindenwold (Camden County)
9. Orange (Essex County)
8. Laurel Springs (Camden County)
7. West Orange (Essex County)
6. Lawnside (Camden County)
5. Hillside (Union County)
4. Woodbury (Gloucester County)
3. Salem City (Salem County)
2. Roselle (Union County)
1. Woodlynne (Camden County)

The tiny borough of Alpine in Bergen County, known as the country's "wealthiest zip code," according to the release, had the lightest property tax burden.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to better reflect the methodology used in conducting the study.


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Emily Bader

Emily Bader

Emily Bader is the copy and web editor at NJBIZ. She is a Brielle, N.J. native and a Rutgers University alum. You can contact her at emilyb@njbiz.com or @emilybader on Twitter.

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Comments


Rosa said:
If you study the tax tables for five minutes, you'll see that towns with higher home assessments have lower tax rates, while the opposite is true of towns with lower assessed homes. So in Woodlynne, their tax rate is super high but the average home assessment might be $79k, while Robbinsville has a low tax rate but assessments are really high and so the tax burden is much higher in Robbinsville. And I think yes, you can correlate home value/assessment with quality of life and schools. This list is looking strictly at tax rate, which is really meaningless. As someone pointed out above, why not rank them in tax rate to service ratio? Or some other meaningful way.

Also, Brian, don't be an idiot. Why would you suggest taxes get raised to make it more fair?? Towns need to spend more responsibly so that everyone's taxes can get lowered.

June 29, 2014 10:24 am

Donald Sico said:
These are obviously NOT the "Top 30 most heavily taxed N.J. towns" ... just some crazy list that a whacko Rutgers researcher who has too much free time on his hands came up with.

January 17, 2014 12:56 pm

Rod said:
Ranking town taxes in relation to income is not helpful and lets a lot of towns off the hook. Especially in Bergen County. Better to rank towns by taxes in relation to services.

January 17, 2014 10:50 am

Brian said:
I disagree with this article wholeheartedly. I live in one of the towns on this list and the municipal and school portion of the bill are exactly the reason my property tax burden is high.

January 17, 2014 8:03 am

Brian said:
"As a researcher at the Rutgers' Center for Government Services in New Brunswick, he sent out a release on Thursday that found high levels of municipal and school spending are rarely responsible for tax burdens in the states burdened municipalities."

WTF is this guy talking about? School and municipal part of the tax bill are exactly the reason for the high tax burdens. I'm looking at my tax bill right now and combined they compromise just slightly more than 85% of the bill! BTW, the town I live in is on that list. Frankly I'm dissapointed in the author of the piece because it doesn't address the number 1 reason property taxes are high where I live. The majority of the bill is the school portion and we don't get the aid from the state that the former abbott districts do. So, they shift the burden to the property tax bill....

January 17, 2014 7:48 am

Nik said:
you fail to define your definition of ' tax burden' It is obviously something calculated. What is the calculation?

January 16, 2014 6:54 pm

Rich said:
Hopefully once we get rid of Christie we can get a real governor in office who can increase the taxes in other regions to make it more fair.

January 16, 2014 4:28 pm

Jim said:
First, you need to define what you mean by “tax burden”. Do you mean per capita taxes, total taxes, the tax rate (taxes / assessed value)?

Given the list of towns and the fact that Alpine had the “lightest burden”, I assume you are talking about the tax rate. If so, this makes sense and shouldn’t be any real surprise.

Let’s say you have 2 towns; same number of homes, and same cost to run schools, police & run the local govt. The total tax requirement in each town is $10 million. The only difference is home values:
Snooty River has an average has an average home have of $500k, while Irving Town has an average home value of $250k. In each town, the property tax per home is about $10k. The tax rate in Snooty River will be $2.00 and the tax rate in Irving Town will be $4.00 (per $100 of assessed value).

So, this study doesn’t tell you much of anything other than towns with lower home values will have higher tax rates since the tax rate is based on the cost of running the govt. divided by the value of property in the town.

If you really want to construct a meaningful property tax burden study, pick a proxy home…say a common bi-level on 0.25 acres and compare taxes for this “standard” home across different towns.

January 16, 2014 3:53 pm

dgg877 said:
I find it offensive that this article doesn't even state the basis for the claim. "Highest property tax burden" What does that mean? As a percentage of peoples income? as a percentage of the home value? as a percentage of taxes paid to the county instead of the town? The fact of the matter is simple. When you look at the effective property tax rate per $1000 of home value, NJ is among the highest in the nation. Why? Because we have too many municipalities per capita and our state government refuses to consolidate the administrative effort to take care of those towns. It's not schools, or police departments, or those that work there. It's the fact we have too many people working for our state, county, and municipal government. I read somewhere that 1 in 3 adult workers in NJ was employed by some form of government, also the highest in the nation. With a tax burden that high, it's no wonder people are losing their homes, going bankrupt, furloughs... Just be efficient with the tax money we spend and we'll see productivity increase. That simple. Stop running the state like a poorly run business.

January 16, 2014 3:21 pm



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