Average Verona Property Tax Bill Tops $13K

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The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ annual report on New Jersey property taxes won’t surprise or please absolutely anyone.

Essex County has the most expensive property taxes in the state, with an average tax bill of $13,448 in 2023. The average bill in Verona was just a hair below that, at $13,258, giving us the 10th highest average bill in the county. Verona’s 2023 property taxes rose 2.6% from 2022. That was more than the state’s 2% cap on property tax increases, but below the average increase statewide–3.2%–and below the rate of inflation for the year, which was 3.4%.

Verona officials acknowledge the increase, which is greater than some towns adjacent to us, and say they are working to mitigate future increases. Indeed, the municipal budget now being drafted could result in only a 1.86% increase in municipal taxes on the average property for 2024. Essex County’s 2024 budget includes a 1.75% property tax increase. But Verona has several large projects that will require funding, like the proposed public safety complex. And opportunities to blunt or reverse tax increases at the county, state and national level remain slim.

Property Taxes In Verona And Surrounding Towns

At $13,258, the average Verona property tax bill is more than that of Caldwell ($13,197), West Caldwell ($12,068) and Cedar Grove ($12,022). But Verona is below the three Essex County towns with the highest bills: Millburn ($24,947), Glen Ridge ($22,605) and Montclair ($21,415), where the one-year increase was 3.1%.

The Essex County towns with the biggest annual property tax increase in 2023 were East Orange (9.3%), Orange (7.8%) and Irvington (4.3%). Cedar Grove held its increase to just 2%, as did West Caldwell, Bloomfield and Newark.

While former Gov. Chris Christie did impose a 2% cap on annual property tax increase in 2010, it is a highly porous cap, with loopholes for pension costs, municipal employee health benefits and other things that are big cost drivers in Verona. While the Verona Town Council has taken steps in recent years to reduce the town’s liability for future police pensions, there is little that can be done to blunt the cost of past retirees. Verona’s 2023 budget appropriated $2,217,747 for retirement plan contributions, of which $1,274,015 was for police and fire department retirees. The respective amounts for 2022 were $2,154,191, of which $1,230,932 was for police and fire. (Even though Verona has an all-volunteer fire department, it pays into the state retirement system for firefighters.)

Where there was once an unlimited federal income-tax deduction for state and local taxes, former President Donald Trump capped it at $10,000 in 2017. Verona’s former congresswoman, Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ11), has repeatedly tried to have the full deduction reinstated, but that has not yet happened. (Verona was moved from the 11th to the 10th district in 2021 and is now represented by Rep. Donald Payne Jr.) The state deduction for property taxes was increased to $15,000 from $10,000 in 2018.

Looming Infrastructure Needs

Verona Mayor Christopher Tamburro says the Council is doing what it can to hold costs down. ”Few if any ‘nice to have’ items have been included in the operating budgets,” he says.

The town is facing some large costs and is doing what it can to lessen their impact. Tamburro notes that Verona got $2 million in principal forgiveness from the New Jersey I-Bank for the repairs that must be made to the Linn Drive well and hopes to hear back from the state infrastructure finance agency about defraying the cost of the well on Fairview Avenue soon.

Verona has entered into a shared municipal court agreement with North Caldwell and Essex Fells, which Tamburro says should bring “significant relief” from court operating expenses. Verona has shared services agreements with Roseland and North Caldwell for other things that generate some revenue for the town and Tamburro says the Council and town administration are looking to do other agreements.

While no cost for the proposed Public Service Building has yet been disclosed, Tamburro says Verona is already in talks with state and federal representatives to get funding support. The building, which would be located on Pompton Avenue north of the Linden/Cambridge intersection, would house the Police Department, Verona Rescue Squad and the fire company now located across from Everett Field.

And then there are the costs that, while outside the main town budget, still pull from inside Verona pockets. Verona’s water treatment plant needs a substantial upgrade. It is an independent entity so renovations would need to be paid for out of water and sewer bills, as well as borrowing. A consultant recently estimated what that could cost us.

Few opportunities for tax relief

The Trump-imposed cap on property tax deductions expires at the end of 2025. Trump has not said what he would do about the deductions if elected president again, but in mid-February the Republican-controlled House of Representatives rejected a cap reform bill developed by four Republicans from New York state.

Gov. Phil Murphy has signaled that his new budget will provide more than $3.5 billion in property tax relief in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That will likely come through existing programs like ANCHOR and Senior Freeze. ANCHOR provides property tax relief to property owners and renters whose New Jersey gross income was not more than $250,000. But the 2023 filing deadline has already passed, so you’ll have to wait until the end of the year if you missed it.

Senior Freeze reimburses eligible seniors and disabled people for property tax fee increases. You have to have been 65 or older as of December 31, 2022 to use it or be on Social Security disability benefits, and have owned your home by December 31, 2019 and paid all property taxes for 2022 and 2023. The application deadline for the 2023 benefit is October 31, 2024 and you can get more information on rules and eligibility here.

Beginning in 2026, New Jersey will offer StayNJ, a property tax rebate program. Eligible seniors with a gross income under $500,000 could get a credit of 50% on the annual property tax bill for their principal residence, but StayNJ maxes out at $6,500.

Finally, if you are thinking of moving down the shore to escape the high cost of living in Essex County, you could see some savings. The average property tax bill was $6,213 in Cape May County, $6,894 in Atlantic County, $7,294 in Ocean County and $10,590 in Monmouth County.

Photo by Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash

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1 COMMENT

  1. That’s not something to be happy or proud about.
    Many leave state due to high taxes.
    Also social security is taxed.

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