TRENTON, N.J. – Seniors in New Jersey deserve property tax relief, say Assemblywomen Kim Eulner and Marilyn Piperno, but residents should be skeptical that the election-year StayNJ proposal, sponsored by Senate Democrats Nick Scutari and Vin Gopal, will deliver on its promises.
The controversial school funding law, passed in 2018 and known as S2, has slashed more than $68.7 million from schools in legislative district 11. The assemblywomen say Sen. Gopal, who voted for S2, is trying to cover up the damage to schools by introducing gimmicks and Band-Aid legislation.
“Sen. Vin Gopal says he supports property tax relief for seniors, but then introduces a bill exempting schools from state aid cuts if they consistently raise property taxes by the maximum amount. The conflicting measures demonstrate he isn’t serious about making New Jersey more affordable,” Eulner (R-Monmouth) said.
Gopal sponsors a bill (S3950/A5575) moving through the Assembly that would maintain state funding for districts facing cuts under S2 if they meet certain conditions like raising property taxes by as much as possible every year for at least five years. Currently, only Freehold Regional qualifies, according to the Office of Legislative Services. Gopal’s legislative district includes students and families served by Freehold Regional.
“The school funding schemes designed by Sen. Gopal maintain the status quo in New Jersey – nation-high property taxes and an underfunded public education system,” Piperno (R-Monmouth) said. “First, he pushes through a bill to only partially fund schools and then he wants to force districts to raise property taxes to either make up the difference or maintain flat funding. School districts have two choices. Either raise property taxes by the maximum amount to avoid state aid losses, or raise property taxes by the maximum amount because of state aid losses. Both are unacceptable.”
Gopal, who serves as the chair of Senate Education Committee, sponsored a partial one-year school funding reprieve (S3732) for some districts reeling from state aid cuts. It only restored about 66% of funding to schools that applied while still cutting more than $55 million from school aid.
“School funding and property taxes go hand-in-hand,” Piperno said. “There is no way to lower property taxes without fully funding schools. We sponsor the only plan that is guaranteed to do both.”
Eulner and Piperno sponsor the “Fully Funding Schools and Cutting Property Taxes Act” (A5253). The plan would return all S2 funding, increase state aid to adequacy for every district, and lower property taxes by an average $804 in the first year with decreases every year thereafter.
“The Republican plan will offer a structural, long-term solution to the school funding and property tax crisis. Gopal’s proposals are unsustainable and actually mandate property tax increases when school funding is on the line,” Eulner said. “As soon as the government finds another way to spend the money or revenues take a downturn, the StayNJ program will be gone and so will the opportunity to help residents who really need affordability.”
The lawmakers also noted how seniors have suffered under Democrats’ failed economic policies.
“Seniors shouldn’t trust any policy that is the brainchild of New Jersey Democrats. They’ve proven to be disingenuous at best,” Piperno said. “StayNJ doesn’t undo the damage Democrats have done to seniors’ savings or quality of life.”
Under Murphy and Democrat control, the cost of living in New Jersey has increased by $22,750. They’ve raised taxes by nearly $18 billion.
“Gopal and Democrats introduced StayNJ to keep their political power in New Jersey, not seniors,” said Eulner and Piperno. “New Jersey residents deserve long-lasting tax cuts and real property tax relief so they can keep more of their hard-earned dollars and retire comfortably. This is why we endorse the Republican plan.”