Governor Chris Christie signed legislation today sponsored by Senator Jennifer Beck (R- Monmouth) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D- Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem) that prevents abuse of the state’s farmland assessment law. The legislation was first introduced by both Senators in 2008.
“I want to thank Governor Christie for signing this bill today,” said Beck. “This bill modernizes the law to better ensure that the 98% property tax break provided by program is only given to those who actively work the land, and that taxpayers are not footing the bill for neighbors whose sole motivation is to avoid paying taxes instead of farming. I have dedicated a great deal of time and effort to this cause, today is win for the real farmers here inNew Jersey.”
The core of this bill is the new regulations which will allow tax assessors to make firm determinations about what is and is not a farm. It puts the decision making ability it to the hands of the people best equipped to make the determination – the tax assessors. It also creates a much more stringent application process for those who seek to have their property deemed a farm.
“This represents significant change – those loopholes had existed for far too long, creating a way for people to cheat the system. Now we can ensure that real farmers are the only ones who will benefit under this program,” said Sweeney.
The law also requires the State Farmland Evaluation Committee (SFEC) review the minimum gross sales and payments standards at least every three years. The SFC is then authorized to adopt regulations to raise the amount of those minimums to levels the committee determines appropriate after completing each such review. Initially, the new law will boost the threshold of sales derived from farming activity to $1,000 per year from the current $500 and implements a $5,000 penalty for intentional misrepresentation of a property owner’s eligibility for the program.