New Jersey homeowners paid an average property tax of $7,576 last year, a 4.1 percent rise over 2009.
"AARP recognizes that property taxes are a perennial topic of great concern to our members in New Jersey," said Jim Dieterle, AARP New Jersey state director.
Sutton is among nearly 1.2 million New Jersey residents who are 65 and older, according to the latest U.S. Census. A wave of about 150,000 boomers turn 65 this year and next in the state, making them eligible for many government benefits, such as the Senior Freeze and the Homestead Credit.
"Every penny goes someplace," Sutton said of her household budget. "I spend so many dollars for food, so much for gas. Everything is budgeted." Property tax is her biggest bill.
Dieterle said the best way to care for older residents is to help them remain in their homes as long as possible. Whether they get a break on property taxes is often the determining factor.
"AARP is strictly nonpartisan, but we are engaged in the political process on behalf of our members in order to educate policymakers and the public about the choices in this difficult economic environment," he said.
Property taxes and utility bills promise to be hot-button issues in the November election, when all 120 seats in the legislature are on the ballot.
AARP is part of a coalition urging state lawmakers to oppose legislation that would eliminate regulatory oversight of utility services and rates for telecommunications and electricity.
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George E. Jordan is a freelance writer and editor based in Teaneck, N.J.