Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Tim Eustace to provide tax relief to towns that are acquiring flood-prone homes through the state’s Blue Acres program has been signed into law.
“The homes at issue are being purchased by Blue Acres funds because of constant flooding and they are now coming off the tax rolls,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Towns should not be left on the hook to pay county and school taxes for a home that is no longer bringing in property taxes because of a delay in processing. This is a sensible way to help beleaguered homeowners and cash-strapped municipalities.”
“This is a simple solution to allow for towns to plan correctly for next year’s budget,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Towns like Saddle Brook have dealt with enough flooding problems over the past few years. They should not have to pay the consequences of higher taxes due to a technicality while we attempt to alleviate the issue for them and others throughout New Jersey.”
The law (A-3362) exempts real property acquired by municipalities as part of a flood-prone property acquisition program from school, county and fire district real property taxes, immediately upon acquisition. The law is retroactive to October 29, 2012, the date Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, so that post-Sandy blue acres municipal acquisitions qualify for the immediate property tax exemption.
The law provides that a municipality may credit any property taxes already paid to a county, school district, or fire district on qualified real property before the enactment of the law, but after October 29, 2012, against the next installment of taxes due to the county, school district, or fire district. The law also requires a municipality to reimburse a property owner, no later than 15 days after the next regular meeting of the municipality’s governing body, following an acquisition, for any taxes paid by the property owner for the period beyond the date of acquisition.
The funding comes from the state’s Blue Acres program, which helps provide for the acquisition of lands in the floodways of rivers, and their respective tributaries, for recreation and conservation purposes. Eligible flood prone properties are those that have been damaged by, or may be prone to incurring damage caused by, storms or storm-related flooding, or that may buffer or protect other lands from such damage. Blue Acres acquisitions must be from willing sellers.