Veterans living in 25 continuing care retirement communities around New Jersey would be allowed to continue receiving property tax deductions if voters approve a change to the state constitution in the Tuesday election.

The proposed constitutional amendment is the only statewide public question on this year’s ballot. It hasn’t been the subject of a sustained advertising campaign either for or against, outside of grassroots support from veterans groups who’ve been trying to get the change made since 2001.

“The reality of it is nobody should ever have to surrender a benefit because they have to move for health reasons,” said Robert McNulty Sr., legislative director for the Fleet Reserve Association branch for the Northeast/New England region.

“It isn’t like you’re just leaving your house and go to rent an apartment or a condo. You’re going somewhere for bona fide health reasons,” he said.

Veterans who served during wartime can receive a $250 property tax deduction for a home they own. Last year, nearly 128,000 veterans and 40,000 veterans’ widows received the deduction.

Air Force veteran Gary Baldwin, the Tinton Falls council president, lives in the Seabrook continuing care retirement community. He said residents pay property taxes through their monthly bills, though do not hold the titles to their homes.

“And by virtue of that, we are disqualified completely from receiving that small benefit that each of us got when we lived in the various towns around,” Baldwin said.

“It just seems to me like those veterans are being overlooked and denied something that many of them were getting before and now are not getting at all,” he said.

Nearly 10,000 people live in continuing care retirement communities in New Jersey. Baldwin estimates more than one-third of them are veterans.

That would mean, if the question is approved, more than 3,000 veterans could be newly eligible for property tax deductions of $250. That could mean more than $750,000 in additional costs – reimbursed by the state, not towns or continuing care communities.

State Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, said it’s a basic benefit that should be extended to more veterans.

“Our veterans fought for us abroad, and we need to ensure that they get this basic benefit. It’s more the principle,” Gopal said. “Obviously when you’re talking about the grand scheme of things, $250 is a small amount. But it’s the principle of making sure that we respect and honor this benefit that veterans should get.”

The deduction is paid for by the state. The community would be required to deduct it from a resident’s bill.

The property tax deductions of $250 are paid for by the state. If the question is approved, continuing care retirement communities would be required to pass along the benefit to resident veterans through credits on their bills.

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