The Township held a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss the current township tax reassessment. Mayor Vic DeLuca led the meeting and was joined by Jason Cohen from Appraisal Systems Inc. (ASI).
Questions were asked by audience members, and via email and phone calls from residents at home. The entire video can be viewed on the township's website.
One of the first email questions cut to the chase, reflecting a sentiment that some in town have expressed: Was the 2010 reval flawed in the first place, and is that the reason the town has faced such a large number of tax appeals?
DeLuca reworded the question to Cohen: "Did you guys screw up last time?"
"I don't think we screwed up," said Cohen. He explained that all across the state, home values are changing much more frequently and not in tandem anymore. The state allows municipalities the discretion to reassess properties as often as every year.
He conceded that the process was not perfect and that "appraisal is an art, not a science."
Cohen said the Maplewood reassessment is being conducted for three main reasons:
- Redistribute tax obligation based on current market values
- Turbulent real estate market requires more frequent analysis of trends and values
- Appeals have caused disparities in assessments causing similar homes to have differing assessment.
The reassessment will not involve internal inspections of houses, as the revaluation did, but rather will look at recent sales from the Multiple Listings Service (MLS) and compare that to the data from the revaluation. (Commercial properties also will be reassessed.)
DeLuca said the township had already refunded $400,000 in property tax appeals this year. "So we decided to pay $60,000 (one time) instead of $400,000 on an annual basis," he said. He also said the township did not expect to repeat the reassessment every two years but that they would continue to keep an eye on when property values fall out of line.
The Mayor also said that a large segment of the appeals were from condominium owners, where the market has declined significantly in value.
Cohen said the reassessment would not increase the overall amount of taxes the town collects. "We are keeping the size of the pie the same but recutting everyone's slice to more accurately reflect the current market conditions in given neighborhoods," he said.
Translation: some people's taxes will go up after the reassessment, and others will go down.
An audience member asked if ASI would consider the 7-Eleven currently being constructed on Valley Street and Parker Avenue and how it would affect property values in the surrounding neighborhood.
Cohen said that "if we're seeing a lot of people complaining about the same situation" they would take it into account. DeLuca suggested that the neighbors should "organize" and meet with ASI.
The timeline of the process will be as follows:
- Letters with new valuations will go out in late November.
- ASI will hold informal meetings with homeowners in December.
- Those informal hearings will end on January 10, 2013, when the tax list will be officially filed with the county.
- Residents have until May 1, 2013 to file a formal appeal with the county board of taxation or with the state tax court.
- The new tax rate will be determined in the summer of 2013.
DeLuca said the township committee is "committed to keeping the tax rate as real to 2% as possible."
Cohen suggested that residents who might wish to appeal could obtain a copy of the property record card from the tax assessor's office to doublecheck that the information on the card is correct. If residents find an error they should contact ASI to make an appointment to discuss the record card.
Once the new valuations are out in December, all information will be posted on ASI's website: www.asinj.com.