All three branches of state government have contributed to the property tax crisis. And all three branches can be part of the solution. Presently, local officials all around our Garden State are awaiting decisions on two vitally important matters from two different courts.
The fate of COAH and the future of affordable housing rest in the hands of the state Supreme Court. Last year, the Appellate Division struck down the recent COAH regulations. That decision invalidated many regulations that were burdensome. Unfortunately, it also invalidated the “growth share” concept, in which a percentage of growth is set aside for affordable housing. This was meant to replace the unpredictable bureaucratic approach historically employed by the agency.
Soon thereafter, the League asked the state’s highest court to reconsider growth share and a handful of other issues of interest to municipalities. The Attorney General and some special interest groups also asked the Supreme Court to review the case. In January, the Court granted COAH’s motion for a stay of the Appellate Division decision. The Justices will soon have the opportunity to listen to the arguments, including those advanced by the League, and bring order to the chaos that has prevailed in recent years.
The other key case is now pending in state Tax Court. Hopewell Borough in Mercer County has
challenged Verizon’s unilateral decision to cease paying the Business Personal Property Tax. The company based that decision on its unilateral interpretation of the law. Verizon believes that, once it determines that it no longer serves at least 51 percent of the local telephone exchanges in a municipality, payment of the tax is not required. More and more municipalities have been advised by Verizon that they will no longer receive Business Personal Property Tax payments.
The League appeared as amicus curiae in the matter, as has the state. Oral argument, in which all parties participated, was held last September. Subsequently, the judge allowed the parties to submit supplemental briefing on the two points at issue. Additional briefs were submitted by Hopewell,
Verizon and the League on October 25. Judge Menyuk has not yet issued a decision.
Let’s hope your League prevails and the decisions of these two courts contribute to the cause of property tax relief for our hard-working fellow citizens.
Editorial from New Jersey
Municipalities, Volume 88, Number 5, May 2011