Phil Rizzo’s candidacy for governor was supported by some pro-Trump figures from New Jersey Rizzo for NJ governor
BY MATT FRIEDMAN
Updated 04/07/2021 6:22 PM EDT
A MAGA-sponsored candidate for New Jersey governor turned his well-appointed home into a rectory and now lives in it, property tax free.
Phil Rizzo, who heads the tiny City Baptist Church in Hudson County, and his wife Jennifer paid $ 1.55 million in 2015 for a five-bedroom, seven-bath home in New Vernon, Morris County, about 45 minutes away from the church. Two years later, the Rizzos sold the house to the City Baptist Church for $ 1.65 million. Rizzo has said his family is still living in the house – real estate tax free. In public records, it is listed as a property tax exempt rectory that saves more than $ 15,000 in taxes annually in the state, which is among the highest property taxes in the country.
Rizzo, who is a third-generation real estate developer according to his online bio, is in the running for the Republican nomination behind Jack Ciatterelli, making him a longshot to become Governor of the Garden State. The winner of this competition will meet incumbent Democratic Governor Phil Murphy in November. On Twitter, Rizzo has spoken out on unsubstantiated allegations of suspected election fraud in the 2020 presidential election and conspiracy theories that left-wing activists were responsible for the January 6 uprising in the U.S. Capitol.
Since the house was sold to the church, the house has been luxuriously upgraded, according to the Zillow listing. It went on sale in September 2020, but the listing was withdrawn in November, according to Zillow. The price was $ 2.65 million.
“The client is putting the finishing touches to this breathtaking 5-bedroom house, all with their own bathroom,” says the listing. “The house has been completely renovated from top to bottom.”
As listed, the home has three fireplaces, a six-burner Viking stove, two sub-zero freezers, a wet bar, a pond, and a heated concrete pool with an attached hot tub. There is also a detached two car garage with some finished space inside.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Rizzo said his church couldn’t pay a salary when he decided to move away from his house building and renovation business.
“Instead, the Church decided to buy my home as an asset and allow my family and I to continue living there,” he said. “Additionally, the house provided a peaceful and beautiful space in Harding outside of town where we could bring our church and ward for family dinners, picnics, games, Bible studies, and children’s events. You can blame me for many things – just ask my kids! But I don’t think this is one of them. ”
Rizzo’s campaign declined to answer follow-up questions about how the church was able to raise the money to buy his house, why it paid him more for the house than he paid for it, whether he or the church paid for the renovations, and examples of ecclesiastical youngsters He held events at home.
The house is now exempt from property tax, according to public records. According to the Zillow listing, it was valued at $ 1.37 million in 2018 and property taxes were $ 15,388. According to public records, the house was valued at nearly $ 1.84 million in 2020.
Rizzo’s candidacy for governor was supported by a number of pro-Trump figures from New Jersey, including radio host Bill Spadea, who recently ran a fundraiser for him, and former Ocean County GOP chairman George Gilmore, who was convicted of his influence over him three federal agencies eased tax offenses, but were pardoned by then-President Donald Trump in January.
Rumors of Rizzo’s home were circulating on the internet, and Rizzo was asked about it by a reporter for an internet newscast last month during a Republican event in Hudson County. The question only related to his life in a tax-free home, not his luxury amenities.
“As a third generation real estate developer and someone who owns a small business, I know a lot about paying taxes. Now my church is a little church. They don’t pay me a very high salary, “answered Rizzo when asked.” … So our church owns my house and it’s tax free. It’s completely according to the book. We looked at it from lawyers. We looked at it from accountants. It’s after the book. I’m not doing anything to save money or to make money that will get me into trouble. And so we were able to accept the benefit under New Jersey tax law. “
It’s not clear how much Rizzo’s salary is. His church has a post office box in Hoboken and a small shop in North Bergen. She has only one other person on her staff, according to the Church’s website.
POLITICO called the number on the property list and reached Jennifer Rizzo.
“We just changed our minds and took it off the market,” said Jennifer Rizzo when asked why the property list was pulled.
Jennifer Rizzo declined to answer any further questions about the house.