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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