NJ mayor accepts apology from man who made arson threat over taxes
OCEAN TOWNSHIP (Monmouth) — After more than a decade of serving on the town council, Mayor Christopher Siciliano said he is no stranger to seeing residents upset, especially when it comes to their taxes.
However, when a resident threatened to burn down the mayor's house after receiving a higher tax bill, Siciliano said the discourse went to a scarier level for his family.
"Some folks were bent in and unhappy about it and I understand. I get it," he said. "Some got carried away. They used emotion over rational and things get out of control."
While the threat to burn his house down was the most extreme example of unhappiness from residents, Siciliano said it is not the only showing of emotion he has seen since the tax bills came out. He said last week a resident went "charging" to his front door to complain, and that all of these incidents have left his family members feeling uneasy.
"I can take it as mayor," he said. "I have thick skin. I understand. But I have other people to consider."
While the charges against 75-year-old township resident Arthur Morse are still pending, Siciliano said he has accepted the man's apology and hopes everyone can put the incident behind them.
"I'm hoping we just get past this," he said. "It was a reaction of emotion and lesson learned maybe to all of us that be careful what you post on Facebook and how you react to situations."
The mayor said as social media continues to be a growing part of everyday life there are also consequences that come with its use.
"I think it's just social media has made folks uninhibited. I guess they think they're invisible," he said. "These are typically real good, solid citizens that let a keyboard get away from them."
Property taxes in the township last year climbed an average of 1.4 percent, a New Jersey 101.5 analysis found. The average property tax bill was $9,063.
Siciliano said a lot of the concerns about the increase in taxes were a result of the most recent revaluation applying to the third quarter tax bills. The township had undergone a revaluation in 2006 and then, per Monmouth County guidelines, again in 2016.
The mayor said some of the tax bills were "inflated" because the township was collecting additional money from the first two quarters of the year in addition to the third quarter, which he said also contributed to confusion by residents.
"They were multiplying it by four, getting this false number that's enormous, and it's scaring them," he said. "We encourage them to call me, call the tax assessor and we'll do the math for you and give you the correct calculation."
In an effort to answer any questions residents might have, Siciliano said a town hall meeting will be held on Wednesday night. He said that will be the time to go over the tax bill and hopefully resolve any outstanding questions.
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