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State Budget Proposal May Not Fund Property Tax Reimbursement Program

Property Taxes are Stripping our Seniors of One of Their Most Valued Assets

With the New Jersey state budget for 2012 up for debate, discussions have turned to property taxes once again and AARP has found that there are several issues of concern for our senior and disabled citizens. Governor Christie’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2012 continues to block new applicants from entering the Property Tax Reimbursement Program (PTR or Senior Freeze) and it also, again, caps reimbursement payments for 2010 to recipients’ 2008 level.

See Also: How to Appeal Your Property Tax Bill

The PTR was designed to protect low-income seniors and disabled persons from rising property taxes by paying the difference between the current, increased property tax, and the lower tax they paid when they became eligible for the program. However, the 2012 budget proposal deprives the program of adequate funding, causing residents who have been in the program to face higher property taxes this year just as they did last year. These residents simply cannot afford a tax increase.

An interview with Ocean View resident Ruthann Wohlforth on YouTube gives insight into why we must protect residents in the PTR program. Wohlforth, like so many others, worked her entire life. She made minimum wage for the most part, but she worked hard and saved what she could. Now 70, Wohlforth relies entirely on Social Security. In New Jersey, more than 22% of the state’s 1.44 million Social Security beneficiaries are in her shoes. They rely on their Social Security benefit for at least 90 percent of their income.

Wohlforth’s annual income is just over $8,000. With annual property taxes over $4,000, she is barely able to make ends meet. Without the PTR, Wohlforth may lose her home, the house her father built, in which she has lived her entire life. The prospect of losing her house has forced her to realize that if she does have to leave, she may be forced to become a ward of the state or even become homeless. She describes herself as a “throw-away citizen.”

Despite the efforts of our state policy makers, property taxes have gone up significantly—some would say drastically – since 2008-2009. Under the current budget proposal, the 159,000 seniors already enrolled in the PTR will continue to receive a rebate. However the rebate amount will be frozen at the rate of their individual property tax rebate from the 2008-2009 year. Worse, for the second year in a row, the Governor’s budget proposal will bar any newly eligible seniors from entering the program.

No one in New Jersey should consider themselves a “throw-away” citizen. The state has other options when it comes to balancing the budget, but people like Wohlforth Wohlforth do not. AARP urges the state to consider sensible solutions that won’t result in older Americans being forced into state-run institutions or onto the street.

Call Governor Christie right away and urge him to fully fund the PTR: (609) 292-6000.