Your property tax bill & what it’s pointing to

This is part of a series about local budgets and property tax. View the series landing page here.

The tax bill offers a highly personalized context to connect our property (the basis of our property tax) with the larger system of property taxation in the community (which involves the levy, the tax base, and the resulting tax rates). But the tax bill is not entirely transparent as to:

  1. determining if the assessed value in your tax bill is fair (or not) and
  2. what is driving the tax bill in the first place

These two points lead us to the property tax appeals process (point #1) and the budgeting process (point #2). Let’s do a quick dive into the tax bill and then I’ll point out some references for the property tax appeals process.

1-The tax bill…and what it’s pointing to

The tax bill shows a line-item accounting of your individual contribution in property tax. Using Jersey City as an example, we can see the typical tax bill contains:

  • Your assessed value
  • The tax rates
  • Your tax expense (which is assessed value times the tax rates)

This is all essential information, but it’s also what this information points to that is as critical to understand. Our tax bills do not, generally speaking, explicitly share additional information that is as important as the data above, including:

  1. your assessed value in relation to your market value,
  2. the assessed value of the tax base in relation to market value of the tax base
  3. the three tax levies that drive the tax rates, and
  4. the underlying expense that that those levies are helping fund (what are we ultimately investing in as a community?)

Here is a quick illustration of what I mean:

So, a taxpayer new to this dialog should recognize: your tax bill is very limited; it’s what it points to that is critical to unpack. One reason I’m writing this series is to explore the nuance that isn’t as obvious as what is explicitly shared on the tax bill. And I’m attempting to align the series with key dates that are unfolding, real time, that are of import to taxpayers.

And so…because it is late March…this leads us to tax appeals.

2–Property tax appeals

If you live in Hudson County and most other counties, the deadline to appeal is rapidly approaching.  For counties other than Burlington, Monmouth, and Gloucester, the annual deadline is April 1st which is stated in the appeals form.  The state shares details on the process here and each county tax board will also have pertinent details.

The appeals process is about lowering the assessed value of your property. This in turn will lower your overall property tax expense. This process is nuanced and can be a bit confusing on its face especially if assessed values are very outdated.  So to help taxpayers better engage the process, I’m offering my first in-person series workshop on Sunday March 26th at 2pm at Saint Peter’s University. I am co-hosting this workshop with Cynthia Hadjiyannis, a local Jersey City resident and real estate attorney.  This is a teaching workshop, i.e. we’ll go over the tax math and the basic process; that said, this can also be a space to gather, dialog in community, and connect with others who may have similar concerns or questions.

You can find more details in this flyer:

I want to also note that my parish, St. Aedans: the Saint Peter’s University Church, is sponsoring the workshop and I am grateful to our pastor, Father Rocco Danzi, SJ, for his sponsorship and support.

Wrapping Up: additional resources

The property tax appeals tax math is detailed in NJ’s Chapter 123 law and your local tax board will share pertinent information. For instance, Hudson County has an appeals handbook here. You can also get help from an appraiser, a realtor, and/or an attorney.  Finally, New Jersey has 21 county tax boards and I’ve got links to their websites below (links are current as of the writing of this post).  Click on a county to see the related information including the county board of taxation websites. 

  1. Atlantic County
  2. Bergen County
  3. Burlington County
  4. Camden County
  5. Cape May County
  6. Cumberland County
  7. Essex County
  8. Gloucester County
  9. Hudson County
  10. Hunterdon County
  11. Mercer County
  12. Middlesex County
  13. Monmouth County
  14. Morris County
  15. Ocean County
  16. Passaic County
  17. Salem County
  18. Somerset County
  19. Sussex County
  20. Union County
  21. Warren County

If you are unsure of your county, I have provided a visual below that is filterable by county with a mapping of towns and cities across the state. This may be helpful putting your own community into context with the rest of the state; it also can be useful when trying to learn about other communities different from your own. 

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