ROXBURY, NJ – Extending until June the deadline for payment of second-quarter property taxes - a move allowed in a recent executive order by Gov. Phil Murphy - “might do more harm than good” and is not happening in Roxbury, said a township official.

The taxes were due May 1, but the township grants a 10-day grace period. Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd said extending that deadline to June 1, as allowed in Murphy’s April 28 executive order, would cause a number of complications for the township and for taxpayers.

Shepherd said the township would still be required to pay on time the county government and the Roxbury school district their share of the property taxes, “regardless of whether the taxes are collected or not” by the township. That means the township would need to dip into savings or borrow money, said the manager.

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“The costs of borrowing money will be borne by all taxpayers of Roxbury Township,” he said.

Most Taxes Already Paid

Shepherd said another reason Roxbury is not extending the tax deadline relates to the fact that it wouldn’t do anything to help most homeowners, since about 70 percent of them let their mortgage companies pay their property taxes.

“A majority of Roxbury’s real estate taxes are remitted by escrow companies that service the mortgages of township residents,” Shepherd said. He said most of those companies already collected from homeowners the money to pay the second-quarter taxes.

“In other words, granting a 20-day extension provides no benefit to those residents,” he said. “We think the 20-day extension might do more harm than good for Roxbury residents. We still have to make prompt payments to the school and county during May.”

Shepherd pointed out that, in light of the financial hardship being caused by the COVID-19 situation, the Roxbury Mayor and Council went along with his suggestion to pass a new budget that calls for no increase in the township’s portion of the property tax bill.

The county budget also calls for no tax increase, but the new budget adopted by the school district does include a small tax increase, something the district said was necessitated by a significant cut in state aid to Roxbury.

Well-Intentioned But …

Shepherd pointed out Murphy’s order was signed only a few days before the property tax deadline.

“While the action of Governor Murphy was well-intentioned, the order was issued so late that it has not provided municipal governing bodies an adequate opportunity to determine if an extension of the grace period is feasible,” he said. “We realize any help would be welcome during these difficult times — even a 20-day extension of the grace period.  However, we are obligated to make sure that, by granting such an extension, we do not make matters worse for many of the taxpayers in the township."

In announcing his executive order, Murphy said he was giving local officials a way to help beleaguered taxpayers.

"Allowing municipalities the option of extending the grace period for May property tax payments is the right thing to do as many New Jerseyans are impacted financially as a result of this crisis," said the governor. "Leaders of towns and cities across the state have been trying to find ways to lessen the blow on local residents, and with this action, they are empowered to provide relief to homeowners as we continue to do everything possible to fight this pandemic."

Typically, towns may only allow for a grace period of up to 10 days after the property tax deadline without interest or penalty. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the law was amended to allow towns that have experienced a flood, hurricane, superstorm, tornado or other natural disaster to extend the grace period for up to a month in certain circumstances. 

Murphy's executive order allows municipalities to extend the grace period as a result of a public health-related emergency since current law does not. 

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