Roselle Democrats Puryear & Amaker propose Property Tax Circuit Breaker

Brandis Puryear and Travis Amaker are proposing a Property Tax Circuit Breaker, which would provide a refund to individuals and families whose property tax liability is a large percentage of their yearly income.

“Just as an electrical circuit breaker will prevent a fire by stopping wiring from being overloaded with energy, this Property Tax Circuit Breaker program will prevent low-income households from being overloaded with tax burden,” said Puryear, a lifelong Roselle resident who is seeking the Democratic nomination for an at-large seat on the governing body in the June 7 primary election.

The locality that is in charge of levying the taxes and using the revenue would not see a reduction in revenue from property taxes, so it won’t result in cuts for teachers or police and fire departments,” said Amaker, a contender for the Fourth Ward council seat who explained that the federal or state government can pass down relief for those property taxpayers who are overtaxed while the community continues to operate the way local officials and residents decide.

“Municipalities have been at the center of some of America’s most historic achievements, and they help cultivate our strong civic spirit and innovation so it is important that we maintain local control,” said Puryear. “Using national or state funds to offset property taxes that exceed five percent of a person’s income is a perfect example of how America’s system of federalism can work to ensure equality and justice for all.”

Former Assembly Speaker Alan J. Karcher proposed legislation to do this in 1984, but the tax cap plan could not muster support measured against the stark inequities of a state that ranges from the million-dollar mansions of Saddle River to the slums of Newark.

Mary J. Blige’s mansion returned to the market for $6.8 million, almost half of what the singer, songwriter, and actress paid for it in 2008; while more than one-third of the residents of Newark receive public assistance.

Targeting property-tax relief efforts, including by using “circuit breakers” to protect low-income homeowners, are among the key recommendations detailed in a report that described property-tax relief initiatives throughout the country.

The comprehensive report published in November 2021 by the Massachusetts-based Lincoln Institute of Land Policy also highlights the role that state aid can play in addressing funding disparities in low-income communities that rely heavily on property-tax revenue to fund local services.

Amaker said a circuit breaker would be much better than New Jersey’s wildly fluctuating homestead rebates, which have been raided, delayed and played like a political football by governors of both parties since they were started in the 1970s.

“If we agree that property taxes should be capped at a set level of income, then nobody’s tax burden will be greater than they have the ability to pay,” said Amaker. “No system of tax relief will be very effective is it is too complex or subject to alterations at the whims of politicians, so the circuit breaker makes the most sense for New Jersey.”

Gov. Phil Murphy criticized the aging and perennially underfunded Homestead Benefit Program, as he announced a $900 million replacement — the Affordable New Jersey Communities for Homeowners and Renters (ANCHOR) Property Tax Relief Program —as his plan to make New Jersey more affordable.

“Inconsistent funding and constantly changing rules have led many to never really fully know whether they qualify for a rebate, how much it would be, and when it would arrive,” said Murphy, of the . “The time has come to recognize that continuing to rewrite and rewrite the Homestead program renders its meaning to more and more families meaningless. Continuing along this path is no longer tenable.”

The Homestead program has been so often ignored by lawmakers that until last year, it calculated payments using 2006 tax bills although the state’s average property tax bill has increased more than 42% since then, to $9,284 last year, according to data maintained by the Department of Community Affairs. 

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