NJ Property Tax Dashboard: Updated for 2018 w/ Jersey City Highlights

Every year, the state of NJ publishes property tax data on the Department of Community Affairs website. I have combined all the available data, for tax years 1998 through the most recently published data for 2018, into one tabulation and visualized it in Tableau.  This dashboard is intended to provide taxpayers with a bird's eye view of their town's tax base, tax levies, and equalization ratio.

Jersey City Tax Update: 2018.

I am a Jersey City resident so I've created this dashboard primarily to better understand Jersey City's tax profile. Here are a few key insights based on the latest year of data.

  • Jersey City's tax base increased from $28 billion in 2017 to $34 billion in 2018.
  • Jersey City taxpayers paid a total, combined $511 million in property taxes in 2018, which were used to pay:
    • Jersey City services (e.g. City Hall & Council-authorized spending) - $247 million.
    • Hudson County services (e.g. Hudson County Board of Freeholders-authorized spending) - $140 million.
    • Jersey City Public Schools plus publicly funded charter schools serving Jersey City residents - $124 million.

In terms of how these local levies changed from 2017 to 2018:

  • Jersey City's Municipal tax levy increased from $237 million in 2017 to $247 million in 2018, an increase of about 4.2%.
  • Jersey City's County tax levy increased from $129 million in 2017 to $140 million in 2018, an increase of about 8.5%.
  • Jersey City's School tax levy increased from $119 million in 2017 to $124 million in 2018, an increase of about 4.2%.

A quick note: the "levy" and the "budget" are two distinct, but related, terms. The "budget" is total expense, of which the "levy" is the amount of the budget funded by property taxes. The levy is often the biggest source of funding in the budget, but the government does depend on other sources of revenues. For instance, the city budgets will include user-driven fees (e.g. parking permits and pet registrations), fines & penalties (e.g. parking fines and speeding tickets), aid and grants (e.g. often from state or federal government), and, in the case of Jersey City's city budget, abatements, which contribute "payments in lieu of taxes" (aka PILOTs). 

And a final note for 2018: Jersey City's equalization ratio is finally - at long last! - back up at (actually a bit above) 100%! This means our tax assessed values are FINALLY back in synch with market values, as is mandated by NJ state law. The 2017 equalization ratio was 22%, signaling a severe disconnect between assessed and market values, which led to large swaths of Jersey City residents suffering unfair over-taxation. The Revaluation updated all of these old assessments to be on par with 2018 market values, which in turn recalibrated property tax expense for homeowners.

A few points on these key property tax metrics.

  • The Tax Base is the value of all the taxable property in a community.
  • The Tax Levies tell us how much property tax is being spent on City, County, and Public Schools services. A quick note of FYI here...when a property owner pays her tax bill, she's writing one check, but she's actually funding three different local governments: the County (e.g. Hudson County), the Municipality (e.g. Jersey City) and the publicly funded schools (e.g. Jersey City Public Schools). Each of these governments is separately budgeted, administered, and governed.
  • Once each government's tax levy is determined for the coming year, that levy is divided by the tax base to arrive at the tax RATE (e.g. the Board of Education's school tax levy / the entire city's tax base = the annual school tax rate). When you pay your property tax bill, you're paying one overall rate, but that rate is comprised of three "component rates": the Municipal rate, the County rate, and the Schools rate. Check out your tax bill and you'll see these various rates listed!

A few key facts about the geography and governing structure of NJ. 

  • There are 21 counties in NJ.
  • There are 566 municipalities in NJ.
  • Each municipality (e.g. Jersey City) sits within a county (e.g. Hudson County).
  • School boards are generally independent of municipal governments. In Jersey City, the school board (aka Board of Education) is comprised of all-volunteer, elected positions.
  • Most municipalities have their own school system; school system specific data is reported separately, in exhaustive detail, by the NJ Department of Education website here.

If you notice an error, omission, or issue, please let me know. CivicParent is a 100% volunteer effort on my part. I care about my community and share data, analysis, and insights to help grow my fiscal literacy footprint, and invite others to join me in this endeavor.

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