In the wake of the economic devastation caused by the Coronavirus, the state of New Jersey may cut funding this year to two property tax relief programs that many longtime Teaneck residents need to afford living in their homes.
Funding for both The Homestead Benefit Program and The Property Tax Reimbursement Program, more commonly known as the “Senior Freeze,” was left out of the three-month stopgap state budget enacted in June.
Aging advocates fear that both programs will not be restored to the budget that must be adopted by Oct. 1, and they are advising older adults to contact their legislators and the governor’s office to urge that funding be restored to both.
It’s also recommended that homeowners who qualify for Senior Freeze complete their applications for the benefit this year – regardless of what happens in Trenton budget talks in September - in order to keep from paying huge increases in future years.
Applying before a Nov. 2 deadline will ensure that homeowners’ taxes remain frozen at the “base-level,” which is defined as the first year they applied. If and when the program is reinstated, later years’ reimbursements from the state would be calculated by the difference between the base tax year and the current application year.
Together, the Senior Freeze and Homestead programs can reduce the property tax bill by thousands of dollars a year for income-eligible homeowners over 65 and those with disabilities, depending on how long ago they applied.
Even in good economic times, many homeowners struggle with New Jersey’s highest-in-the-nation property taxes.
In Teaneck, the average property tax bill was $12,284 in 2019, equaling more than 60 percent of the average annual Social Security benefit in Bergen County. In part because of property taxes, more than 41 percent of Teaneck homeowners over 65 are classified as “housing cost-burdened,” according to a report from New Jersey Future.
Without this essential property tax relief, some vulnerable homeowners could have to move out of Teaneck, losing the meaningful social ties and support systems they have here. Others may skimp on health insurance, food, or medications, putting their health at risk and increasing the likelihood that they might need long-term-care that would cost government systems far more than these property tax relief programs cost.
Remaining in one’s own home is by far the preferred – and more affordable – option, both for older homeowners and for our budget-troubled state.
Age-Friendly Teaneck urges residents of all ages to speak out against the short-sighted decision to cut property tax relief at a time when many vulnerable residents are finding themselves more financially insecure, having suffered job and retirement income losses.
If the state doesn’t support these residents now, it will almost certainly only pay more to support them later.
To enlist the support of our District 37 legislators, who have long been supportive of the goal of helping Teaneck residents age-in-place, click here for contact info and a sample letter to send.
Who We Are
Age-Friendly Teaneck formed in 2016 with this mission in mind: A great place to grow up should be a great place to grow old.