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Whether on the national stage or back home in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie often peppers the crowd with statistics while describing the fiscal woes of New Jersey before he took office.
Among his arsenal of numbers is the rate of increase in the state’s property tax bills. At an Oct. 16 town hall meeting in West Milford, Christie unsheathed that figure as he said his reforms are constraining property taxes.
"We're announcing $116 million dollars today in additional savings to local governments statewide. Here's why. The savings are possible because of the reforms we put in place: 2 percent cap on property taxes. The property tax rates are starting to come in from across the state. They came in from Burlington County the other day, 1.7 percent increase countywide in property taxes. The cap's working," he said. "Now remember, property taxes went up 70 percent in the 10 years before I became governor. So you’re having [a] 7 percent a year average."
Did New Jersey’s property taxes -- the nation’s highest -- jump by 70 percent in a decade? Homeowners may not be surprised to learn that the increase was actually slightly more. Though, when property tax rebates are factored in, the increase is roughly 50 percent.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said in an e-mail that the governor’s statement is "unequivocally true and a glaring illustration of the uncontrolled rise in property taxes in the decade before we arrived in Trenton -- caused by unrestrained spending and overgenerous benefits and the expansion of government at the local and state level."
The average property tax bill in New Jersey was roughly $4,240 in 1999, according to data from the state Department of Community Affairs.
By 2009 -- the year before Christie took office -- the average property tax bill had climbed to about $7,280.
That’s a more than 71 percent increase.
But there’s also another chapter to the story of New Jersey’s property taxes: rebates.
In previous fact-checks, experts told us reductions in property tax rebate programs could be viewed as tax hikes, since they’re intended to reduce the property tax burden of homeowners.
In 1999, when the NJ Saver program was started under former Gov. Christie Whitman the average rebate check mailed to homeowners was $111.
By 2009, the average rebate was $1,037.
When you deduct those rebates from the average property tax bill, the increase over the decade before Christie took office is less than 70 percent.
In 1999, homeowners paid an average of about $4,130 in property taxes, with the rebate. In 2009, that figure jumped to roughly $6,240, an increase of more than 51 percent.
It’s worth noting Christie stopped delivering checks for property tax relief during his first year in office and changed the program so the rebates came as a credit deducted off property tax bills.
In 2011, the average property tax bill was $7,759. With the credit, the average bill was $7,519.
Christie said: "property taxes went up 70 percent in the 10 years before I became governor."
In the decade before Christie took office, the average property tax bill climbed more than 70 percent, from roughly $4,240 to about $7,280.
But when property tax rebates are taken into account, the increase is less, jumping roughly 50 percent in a decade.
Either way, Christie is on point that property taxes increased significantly from 1999 to 2009.
We rate this statement Mostly True.
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YouTube, Entire Gov. Christie West Milford Town Hall Meeting, Oct. 16, 2012
E-mail interview with Michael Drewniak, spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, Oct. 19, 2012
State of New Jersey Division of Community Affairs, Property Tax Information, accessed Oct. 18, 2012
PolitiFact New Jersey, Chris Christie cut $1 billion in rebates, leading to 20 percent property tax hikes, assemblyman says, March 19, 2012
NJ Spotlight, Net Property Taxes Up 20 Percent Under Christie, Jan. 30, 2012
PolitiFact New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie says the New Jersey budget doubled property tax credits and had no new tax increases for the second consecutive year, July 24, 2011
PolitiFact New Jersey, Chris Christie says he hasn’t raised taxes in New Jersey, Aug. 23, 2012
The Star-Ledger, N.J. property taxes climb 70 percent in 11 years, remain highest in U.S., Feb. 26, 2010
PolitiFact New Jersey, Lou Greenwald says New Jersey's property taxes are highest in country, May 10, 2012
The Associated Press, State set to deliver on its promises of property tax rebates, Sept. 3, 1999, accessed via archives on Oct. 18, 2012
The Star-Ledger, State sweetens pot for your tax refund, June 19, 2001, accessed via archives on Oct. 18, 2012
New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, Analysis of FY2011 Budget: Department of Treasury, April 2010
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