There are lots of reasons for property in New Jersey to be granted tax-exempt status. They range from property that is used for religious, educational, charitable, and cemetery purposes to property that is owned by governments, veteran’s organizations, or volunteer fire organizations. Even residences of disabled veterans may be exempted from taxes. In all, 12 percent of New Jersey’s properties are tax exempt, according to a recent audit from the state comptroller.
State Comptroller Matthew Boxer’s audit found that regardless of the reason for the tax-exempt status, the three municipalities under review (Paterson, Middletown, and Bridgeton) aren’t doing a great job of monitoring the tax status of properties.
For instance, Paterson is not maintaining the properties it receives under foreclosures and was not aware of a billboard carrying commercial advertisement on one parcel of foreclosed land — and neglecting to collect rent for it. Bridgeton was not aggressively advertising foreclosed properties for sale.
Paterson and Middletown were cited for having properties that were no longer eligible for tax-free status due to a change in what they were being used for. The audit also found properties that were granted tax abatements in order to build a certain type of housing that never materialized.
Indeed, it was found that Bridgeton’s current mayor was personally involved in a municipal redevelopment project as the president of a nonprofit company that purchased land from the city and was the signatory for the land transfer.