BARNEGAT, WARETOWN, NJ – A little more than thirty years ago, forests lined the streets west of the Garden State Parkway in Barnegat. Since that time, several over 55 communities sprung up, including Heritage Bay, which is east of the highway.

Not long ago, Waretown residents witnessed the opening of Greenbriar Oceanaire, hailed as an active adult community. Among other things, homeowners there claim the advantage of living on the site of an 18-hole championship golf course.

What impact does the influx of an aging population have on Barnegat and Waretown?  In the spring, one social media poster grumbled about the lack of shopping opportunities and how it affects local taxpayers. She wrote, “Different retail stores are going to get people to shop here and give this town tax revenue instead of passing the buck on its residents.”

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One of the responses to the lament included the statement, “Well, with all the seniors on a fixed income, I guess Barnegat needs dollar stores…”

The concept of “chasing ratables” suggests that commercial development makes more sense than adding residential properties. The numbers in Barnegat in Waretown tell a story of their own.

According to Barnegat Township Business Administrator Martin Lisella, taxpayers in Four Seasons of Mirage alone add approximately $8M to the local tax rolls. Heritage Point contributes another $7M. Meanwhile, these are just two of the senior communities in Barnegat.

For comparison’s sake, there’s Barnegat 67, which features a mix of retail stores and apartments for those over the age of 55. When the project reaches completion, it’s expected to bring in between $600K-$700K in local tax revenue.

“Without the senior developments, taxes would really go up,” shared Lisella. “Someone paying $4K now for property taxes could easily see their bill exceed $10K.”

The Township of Ocean has approximately 9K-10K residents and also receives some of its tax contributions from its age-restricted community.

“About one-third of our local property taxes come from Greenbriar,” shared Township of Ocean Mayor Ben Loparo.

Like all New Jersey homeowners, residents in senior communities are assessed school taxes. Notwithstanding, association by-laws prohibit minor children from living within over 55 developments.

“This means they’re paying into the schools, but not burdening taxpayers with the expense of educating more students,” confirmed Barnegat Committeeman Al Bille.

In the past, parents of school-age children saw senior voters as a threat to school budgets increases placed on the ballot. However, a law passed in 2012 addressed issues regarding voter approval.

“Schools can take up to a 2 percent increase each year,” explained Township of Ocean Superintendent of Schools, Chris Lommerin. “It’s only a request for anything higher that goes on the ballot.”

At least one social media poster insisted that over 55 developments don’t pay school taxes. “Communities would lose their reduced tax status if they allowed residents to have more than one adult child living with them,” she said.

Again, the idea that retirement communities receive tax breaks because they don’t allow school-aged children remains untrue. However, some senior citizens and disabled people are eligible for a freeze on future property increases. The Senior Freeze Program doesn’t include a requirement to live in an age-restricted development.

Homeowners age 65 or older or those who receive Social Security disability benefits must meet certain requirements to qualify for the freeze. The tax relief actually comes in the form of reimbursement. Eligible taxpayers still need to pay their full tax bill to the town each year and only receive a check on the difference between the established base and the increase.

“They still pay their fair share to the town,” said Gail Zalfa, Barnegat’s Assistant Tax Assessor. “Those who are eligible get the reimbursement from the state. However, the municipality still receives the revenue.”

Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at sfaughnan@tapinto.net.