Legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Kevin Ryan, Celeste Riley and Mila Jasey sponsored to investigate the potential taxpayer savings through countywide property assessment demonstration programs was advanced recently by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-3939) would create a property assessment demonstration program that would be open for participation to any county in the state to demonstrate a more cost-effective and accurate property assessment program to save taxpayers money.

"We need a better system that saves taxpayers money by streamlining and sharing services, while providing relief to towns facing losses from tax appeals," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Protecting taxpayers needs to be our priority, and we need to try new and different ways. This is an approach that offers potential savings, it deserves an opportunity to succeed."

"Saving money while creating a more responsive and accurate assessment program can quite simply save taxpayers money," said Ryan (D-Essex.) "That is the right thing to do, especially as we continue to work to control and cut property taxes and bring savings to hard-working New Jerseyans. The old ways of doing things can't cut it anymore."

"We need more consolidation and sharing of services if we're to bring real savings to taxpayers, and this is a sensible way to do just that as we look to tackle property taxes," said Riley (DGloucester/ Salem/Cumberland). "It makes sense that countywide assessments would save money and resolve confusion and conflicts, so let's give it a try. It's worth a shot."

"The current system is unwieldy and confusing to taxpayers, local governments and counties alike, so we should be trying to simplify it and save money at the same time," said Jasey (D-Essex). "Promoting service sharing that saves money is smart and appropriate. No one can reasonably argue that this isn't worth a try."

Under the bill, each county municipality would use the same property assessment software, and all future revaluations and reassessments will be performed on that system. The system will also be used for other assessment-based functions, such as the development of a compliance plan, maintenance of assessments and the calculation of added assessments.

No state funds will be necessary for the implementation of this demonstration program. The county board of taxation in a demonstration county will absorb the cost through assessment appeal filing fees already collected by the board.

The bill requires Director of the Division of Taxation and the Director of the Division of Local Government Services to provide to the Governor and to the Legislature, not later than July 1 following the third full tax year after the implementation of the demonstration program, a report detailing the successes of the program, any problems experienced under the program and any recommendations for statutory or administrative changes to the current system of real property assessment in the state.

The bill was released by the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee.