UNION COUNTY, NJ — Data released by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs shows Union County had the third-highest average residential property taxes in the state last year, behind only Essex and Bergen Counties, but also had the lowest average residential property values out of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
In 2015, the average property tax bill for Union County residences — not including credits and deductions — was placed at $10,521, well above the state average of $8,353. It was an increase of about 3 percent, or $280 per property, from the county’s rate in 2014, which was normal elsewhere in the state. Across New Jersey, property taxes ranged from $3,921 in Cumberland County to $11,247 in nearby Essex.
But the average Union County residence was only valued at $135,367, the lowest in New Jersey. The only other county with a similar figure was Cumberland, where homes are worth, on average, an estimated $141,135, but both county figures fall well short of the state average of about $296,000. Homes in Union County don’t come close to the value of residences in Cape May, the state leader in average properties values, where the Department of Community Affairs says homes were worth $481,367 last year.
The distribution of how taxes were spent in Union County, though, was fairly standard in comparison with the rest of the state.
According to the data, 18.9 percent of residential property taxes in Union County went to the county, 46.7 percent to the schools and the remaining 34.3 percent to municipalities. Meanwhile, the average distribution in New Jersey was that 18 percent went to the county, 52.3 percent to the schools and 29.6 percent to municipalities. In Union County, taxes flowed into the schools at a lower rate than the state average, while municipalities benefitted the most from differences at the local level.
The Union County towns and cities which paid the most in property taxes, were Westfield, whose residents doled out a combined $38.1 million; Summit, which was taxed $36.2 million; and Elizabeth, which paid $35.3 million in taxes. While Elizabeth is the most populated municipality in the county, with the last U.S. Census counting more than 127,000 residents — six times the population of Summit — the average property in Elizabeth was valued at just $34,766, compared to $405,905 in Summit and $179,838 in Westfield.
The highest property tax rates in the county, according to the data, were in those latter two cities. In Summit, it was $17,114, in Westfield it reached $15,913, and New Providence homeowners paid an average of $13,364, while Elizabeth residences were taxed $9,073 in 2015. The least-taxed properties in the county were Kenilworth, Linden, Plainfield, Rahway and Union, all of which paid about $8,300 to $8,500 in residential taxes, which is also the New Jersey average.
Elsewhere in the state, the most-taxed town was Tavistock, of Camden County, with an average property tax bill of $30,723 and property values of about $1.72 million. At the opposite end of the spectrum, properties in Camden City were taxed an average of $1,533 last year, and were valued at just $55,651.
The data referenced in this article is freely available on the website of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, http://www.nj.gov/dca/, which has detailed information on New Jersey’s property taxes dating back to 1998.