Number of the day: 21.4

NJ Spotlight | August 5, 2010

The commercial share of the property tax base of the median of the state’s 566 municipalities was 21.4 percent in 2006, according to New Jersey Future, a Trenton-based policy organization. Many towns seek to drive that percentage higher, hoping that new commercial entities will offload some of the tax burden of homeowners. But that effort, known as the “rateables chase,” is misguided, according to an analysis by New Jersey Future. There is little discernable difference in the property tax rates of towns with a high percentage of commercial taxpayers vs. towns with a low percentage. Of the 57 municipalities with the highest concentrations of commercial properties–more than double the statewide median–the median property tax rate was 1.58 percent, while the 80 towns with the most residential properties had a lower tax rate: 1.43 percent. This comparison is a bit skewed, according to New Jersey Future, because many of the towns with the greatest number of residential properties are at the Jersey Shore, where many houses are second homes and do not contribute children to the school system. Given that, New Jersey Future concludes that the rates are about equal–and thus do not bear out the conventional wisdom that wooing commercial entities is one way to reduce tax rates.