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New Jersey does it again

New Jersey, you continue to top yourself.

Already a state with one of the most out-of-whack property tax systems in the country, it continues to find ways to make things worse.

In the Dec. 1 edition of the Newark Star-Ledger, City Hall published a list of those who failed to pay their property taxes on time in the legal ads section. It’s something done every year, usually over three or four pages.

This year, the last ran to 36 pages. It cost the city $72,000 to print and there were 11,007 properties listed that would be auctioned off if the taxes weren’t paid. Even Mayor Cory Booker was listed, showing he owed $2,820 for his home.

Ummm, what? Eleven-thousand properties? Is the entire township late on its property taxes? Not quite.

Instead, the city made a major, major mistake. In the process, it sent a huge number of property owners into a panic.

Months ago, Newark officials changed the deadline for paying property taxes from December to November. But, silly officials, they forgot to actually tell the taxpayers until it was too late. Ooops!

Despite the mistake, the government went through its usual paces of sending the list of those who owe to the newspaper, only this time the list was absurdly huge. Believe it or not, that didn’t make those listed in the newspaper all that happy.

You can read the full story here.

Publishing the list is a way the city tries to spur people to pay their taxes on time, especially in today’s world where city finances are struggling so much. In the past, Newark property owners had until the end of the year to pay their fourth quarter taxes. But this year, the city changed the due date to Nov. 14.

The city said it is working to calm people who are understandably in a panic that they are going to lose their homes.

As for Mayor Booker, he said he paid his taxes on Dec. 1.

Most taxpayers weren’t told until Nov. 22 that there was a new deadline. How were they told? They started getting letters from the city saying they hadn’t paid and if they didn’t pay by Nov. 19, a lien would be placed on the property, the first step in the home being sold at auction. That means the first notice that taxes were due earlier than usual came three days after the new deadline had passed.

Come on Newark, you’re better than that!

To make up for the mistake, the city is giving property owners until Dec. 28 to pay their bill before a lien is placed on the home.

That hasn’t exactly stopped the flow of anger, though. Besides the mayor, Habitat for Humanity, Wells Fargo Bank and the Fraternal Order of Police also received letters that their property would go to auction without a payment. Do you really want the police upset with you?

The city is conducting an investigation as to why the letter was sent out when it was.

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