Bill That Would Prohibit Citizens from Challenging Tax Valuations and Exemptions Is Amended

A New Jersey Assembly committee has amended a bill that would forbid residents from appealing a property assessment or exemption that is granted to another taxpayer. The bill would now only apply in the case of institutions and corporations that have payment agreements with municipalities such as Princeton University.

Currently, a taxpayer who questions the assessed valuation or exempt status of another taxpayer’s property can file an appeal with the county board of taxation or file a complaint with the state tax court if the assessed valuation of the property subject to the appeal exceeds $1 million.

Under the amended bill, residents would still be able to challenge assessments and exemptions, except when a property owner has a voluntary payment agreement, payment in lieu of taxes agreement, or tax settlement agreement with a municipality.

The legislation would benefit universities, hospitals and corporations that have such agreements with municipalities, exempting them from the property tax appeals and challenges all other property owners in the state can be subjected to.

Following is the text that was added to the bill:

“No taxpayer or taxing district shall be entitled to appeal either an assessment or an exemption or both that is granted to another taxpayer and is based on, related to, results from, or in any way arises from a financial agreement subject to the provisions of the “Long Term Tax Exemption Law,” or any other financial agreement entered into between a taxpayer and a taxing district in which the taxpayer’s property is located, including, but not limited to, a host community agreement, settlement agreement or voluntary contribution agreement.”

Citizens in New Jersey would still be able to challenge property assessments they think are too low, with the exception of this special class of properties that would be created by the bill. They would be unable to challenge the tax-exempt status of properties in court if the property owner has an agreement with the municipality, meaning a lawsuit like the current one in which residents are challenging the tax-exempt status of Princeton University properties could never be filed.

John Cramer, the spokesman for Princeton University, said the school has not lobbied for the bill and has no comment on the bill.

Supporters of the bill include the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey, the League of Municipalities, and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey represents private colleges and universities in the state, including Princeton University. The New Jersey Business and Industry Association represents more than 20,000 companies in the state, including contractors, manufacturers, retailers and wholesale businesses.