106-year-old Gets Help Paying NJ Taxes to Avoid Eviction
CRANFORD — As soon as a story about a 106-year-old township woman facing eviction from her longtime home over delinquent property taxes was published Thursday evening, help started flooding in.
After just a few hours, enough donations had been submitted through GoFundMe to cover the $8,400 that Rose Estwanick and her daughter needed to save the home that Estwanick has lived in since it was built in the 1940s.
By Friday afternoon, the campaign had raised more than $14,700.
"I’m just so overwhelmed. I mean I wish I could just hug everybody. It’s renewed my faith in humankind," Estwanick’s daughter, Rosanne, said Friday.
The elder Estwanick suffers from dementia and heart problems. Her daughter provides care for her mother around the clock and cannot leave her in order to get a job. She reached out to Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, R-Union, who contacted New Jersey 101.5.
New Jersey has some of the highest property taxes in the country. Estwanick's modest home is assessed at $9,725 a year — an increase of about $335 from last year, and an increase of more than $2,300 since 2010, records show. That's on the low end for Cranford, where the average tax bill last year was $11,375.
Estwanick's daughter said Friday that she wasn't sure if her mother had applied for the Senior Freeze program, which is available for senior citizens who earn less than $89,000 in income. But in order to qualify for the reimbursement, the homeowner cannot be delinquent on the taxes.
Mayor Patrick Giblin, who visited the family on Friday, said that municipal officials had recently helped Estwanick enroll in the Senior Freeze program. A spokesman for the state Treasury said confidentiality rules prevented the department from commenting on an individual taxpayer's record.
Giblin said that a tax sale, which would have been scheduled for the fall, would not have resulted in Estwanick losing her home right away. State law would give Estwanick an opportunity to redeem the home by paying off the tax lien plus interest.
"We want to be helpful. We would do anything in our authority to assist a resident, especially a senior on a fixed income," Giblin said.
A report earlier this year found that the amount of assistance provided by the state's property tax relief programs, including Senior Freeze and the Homestead rebates, has declined significantly since 2007.
The daughter said that when the donations started coming in, "I was just completely overwhelmed."
“I’m just so thrilled, it helps me keep my mother here where I believe she belongs," she said.
One of the people who shared New Jersey 101.5's story was Bill Pulte, the CEO of Pulte Capital, who asked his 101,000 followers on Twitter to help the Cranford mother and daughter.
“I was just so grateful that there are people like that out there who do care," the younger Estwanick said.
Pulte, who spoke with Estwanick Friday morning on the phone, said it’s all about giving people a helping hand.
“What I found is that Americans really want to help other Americans, and it’s about showing the specific people in need,” he said. “Why should a 106-year-old lady who is in the great time in her life have to be suffering because of taxes?”
Pulte said after he put out a single tweet Thursday night, what happened was amazing.
“All of a sudden the numbers just started going up and up and up,” he said, calling his followers "teammates."
“They’re all with us, getting things done and helping people like Rosanne and her mother," he said.