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(TRENTON) – Two Assembly Democratic property tax reform bills to attack unfunded state mandates that drive up property taxes were approved Thursday by the Assembly.
“Unfunded mandates like these have helped shove New Jersey property taxes to unacceptable levels,” said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), who sponsors the bills. “With these changes, we will bring real savings to property taxpayers without spending a dime, simply by easing mandates that no longer serve a purpose or are simply too burdensome.”
The bills would:
· Allow more groups to file complaints against unfunded state mandates (A-3204). It was approved 75-0.
· Save municipalities money by revising master plan re-examination requirements (A-3272). It was approved 75-0.
McKeon was asked by Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) over the summer to lead an Assembly examination of state mandates that help drive up property taxes.
Besides McKeon, the bill allowing more groups to file complaints with the Council on Local Mandates is sponsored by Assemblymen Fred Scalera (D-Essex/Bergen/Passaic) and John Burzichelli. Currently, only individual municipalities can lodge challenges.
“This is a sensible step toward a more affordable New Jersey,” said Scalera, who authored the bill over the summer as part of the ongoing Assembly Democratic property tax reform efforts. “Allowing more groups to challenge these mandates will lead to a more accountable system that hopefully will lead the state to think twice about the cost of some of these costly regulations. That can only help keep property taxes in check.”
“The current system has proven unwieldy and often led to municipalities choosing not to file challenges because it’s simply too costly to go it alone,” McKeon said. “Allowing more parties to file challenges will help provide a strong check against unfunded state mandates, hopefully keeping local government costs and property taxes under control. Quite simply, this is a commonsense change.”
“All too often we’ve seen unfunded state mandates drive up property taxes on already overburdened taxpayers,” said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “The Council on Local Mandates is a viable place to go to seek relief, but the current system is unworkable for too many municipalities that cannot afford a challenge. This is a smart change.”
The bill would allow the New Jersey Conference of Mayors, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, the New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Association of Counties, the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, the New Jersey Association of Fire Districts and groups representing police and fire chiefs and emergency services workers to file a complaint with the Council on Local Mandates concerning a potential unfunded mandate.
The other bill modifies the Municipal Land Use Law to provide that municipalities need to complete the reexamination of the municipal master plan only every ten years. The legislation would also provide a procedure for built-out municipalities to waive the general reexamination process.
“A comprehensive master plan review has a shelf life beyond the current mandate of six years,” McKeon said. “If a municipality feels it’s important to review its plan at the current level it can continue to do so, but if you also happen to be a municipality that is built out and you are in your fifth year, this measure is a respite.”