Freeholders Call on Governor Murphy to Restore Full Funding for Homestead Property Tax Rebate for Seniors and Low-Income Families

May 16, 2018

After the state slashed in half this year’s Homestead Property Tax rebates for seniors and low-income families, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders is asking Gov. Phil Murphy to restore full funding for the program.

“Our county has the largest percentage of senior citizens in the state, so this cut has really taken its toll on many of our residents,” said Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, liaison to the Ocean County Department of Senior Services.

Last year former Gov. Chris Christie and the state Legislature slashed the rebate for seniors from $516 to $267. Low-income families saw their rebate drop from $403 annually to $202.

While state leaders are still wrestling with the proposed 2019 budget, press reports say Murphy’s office has indicated that he favors maintaining the rebates at the lower level.

Vicari, in a May 8 letter to the governor, asked him to reconsider.

“Social Security cost of living increases have not kept pace with rising medical, utility and other costs borne by our senior citizens,” Vicari said in the letter. “A $249 annual cut in property tax rebates, or about $20 per month, may not seem like much on the surface, but for seniors, some of whom cannot afford the $2 charge for meals-on-wheels, this is a significant loss.”

Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little said that while he understands the fiscal difficulties faced by the state, tax breaks for seniors and the needy should be a priority for both the governor and the Legislature.

“Let’s not balance the budget on the backs of our seniors,” Little said.

Vicari agreed, saying many of the county’s older residents are living on fixed incomes.

“Caring for the needy and less fortunate among us has been a priority of your administration, as it has been a priority of our county government. I ask you to please support our senior citizens and restore the Homestead Property Tax Rebate to its full level of funding,” Vicari said in the letter.

According to the state, about 600,000 residents received a Homestead Property Tax rebate this year.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly have also expressed support for returning the tax rebates to 2017 levels. —M.S.

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