It’s been a front burner issue in New Jersey for decades, but when it comes to lowering the state's property taxes, nothing seems to ever get done.

Creatas, ThinkStock
Creatas, ThinkStock

How to lower Jersey’s highest in the nation property taxes has been widely discussed by both taxpayers and lawmakers, but the result is always the same - the property tax keeps rising.

Now, a newly formed grassroots group is laying out a plan to address the issue by changing the way education is funded.

NJ Citizens for Property Tax Reform is calling for schools to be funded by either the sales or state income tax, not the property tax. Ultimately, the organization would like to see property taxes lowered between 50 and 60 percent.

The group also wants to apply a two-year freeze on the remaining taxes, followed by an annual 2 percent hard cap on any future increases, unless higher increases are approved by the township residents.

When asked if this kind of change can really be made, the group's executive director said yes.

“All that you need is the will of the people and the Legislature to do it. We live in a world of taxation so it’s only a matter of taking a tax from one place to the other,” said George Kneisser.

He stressed this might not be favored by politicians, but it would definitely be favored by homeowners.

“The message to legislators is do something. You haven’t done anything so far and all your efforts have been a dismal failure, basically," Kneisser said.

No matter what lawmakers do, property taxes in New Jersey just keep going up, according to Kneisser.

"Soft cap, hard cap, rebates - honestly don’t mean anything. Regardless our property tax has been going up. It’s happens year after year and there is no end in sight,” Kneisser said.

And while he acknowledges that the issue of reducing the state's property taxes has been on the table for years, his group is trying to present Trenton with one voice.

“What we are trying to do is organize people at this time into one unified voice and one unified organization so maybe they will listen to us better. We know there’s been a lot of failure in the past, but we’re trying again, and if we get enough people that will vote on the issue, hopefully we can create change,” Kneisser said.

In hopes of gaining that one voice, the group has launched a petition drive on its website.

Kneisser added the current system is nothing short of a disaster.

“Everybody is affected by the property tax in New Jersey when you own a house in New Jersey or you rent,” he said.

The group is calling on the Legislature to take action by the end of the year.

Kneisser said he would like to see the Legislature vote on the petition by Dec. 31. If that doesn't happen, he thinks the people should be able to vote directly on it through referendum by June 30, 2017.

Kneisser said if nothing happens, an action by the court might be necessary.  "We are willing to go to court and do something about that. We’ll go to court to see if they have the right to block reform that everyone else in the state really wants.”

The bottom line is, something needs to be done.

“We are saying to the Legislature, 'Please reform the property tax by removing the school tax or any other.' Honestly, if they have a better solution, do it. We don’t care,” Kneisser said. “We need a real solution to this problem, not only 2 percent here and 1 percent there. We’re not interested in controlling the increase, we really need to reduce the property tax."

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