For Moorestown residents struggling with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the township offered some room to breathe.
At its May 8 virtual meeting, Moorestown council unanimously passed a resolution extending the property tax grace period to June 1. On April 28, Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 130, allowing municipalities to extend the grace period for property tax payments to June 1.
The executive order does not change the due date of May 1, but instead extends the grace period for payment. That will allow property owners to pay on or before June 1 without accruing interest or penalties.
Mayor Nicole Gillespie said that before council scheduled the meeting to vote, members looked at data on the number of unemployment claims filed in Moorestown; its tax collection rate compared to previous years; the potential lost revenue; and the number of calls to the tax collector’s office asking for the extension.
“In the end, I felt council needed to vote on the resolution rather than just default to the original grace period.” Gillespie said. “It passed unanimously, so I think we all felt it was the right thing to do.”
The township will likely lose some revenue in the form of late fees for the period of May 10 to June 1, according to the mayor. She said that alone is unlikely to significantly affect operations, but the township is also losing other forms of revenue unrelated to tax payments.
Gillespie explained that even though it extended the grace period for tax collection, the municipality still has to pay the schools and the county for their portion of taxes in May. Council’s 2019 decision to protect township reserves has also put them “in good financial shape to weather this crisis,” according to the mayor.
Gillespie said that in her eyes, the issue boils down to whether the municipality can do something to make things a little easier for struggling residents and businesses. If it can, the township should do so, she added.
“If someone is waiting for their unemployment claim to get processed, or still waiting for their stimulus check, this extension gives them a little breathing room, and for people or businesses that are short on cash and need to use a credit card to pay their taxes this quarter, the extension at least saves them a little on interest,” Gillespie noted.
For now, Gillespie hasn’t heard much feedback from residents about paying their property taxes, but she has heard from people worried about the long term who also wonder when their businesses might be able to reopen or when they can return to work.
The mayor said while some of those matters are controlled by the state and federal governments, council will continue to do everything in its ability to help the residents of Moorestown during the pandemic. She encourages people who are struggling to reach out to the township, because there are some issues that can be handled on a case-by-case basis.
The township also has a help line in place that is a partnership between the Moorestown Department of Parks & Recreation and the Moorestown Rotary Club. It is meant for people who can’t get out of the house and/or those struggling to put food on the table. For help, call (856) 437-0305.