Shore lawmakers support Treasury Department reval probe
For most New Jersey communities, periodic property revaluations are a necessary evil. For a handful, they're the elephant in the room.
Jersey City, Elizabeth and Dunellen lead the list of nearly 10 Garden State muncipalities in the crosshairs of the New Jersey Department of Treasury. The question - what are you waiting for?
Officials sent notice to each, and they're preparing to do the same for South River, Westfield, Roselle, Winfield, East Newark and Harrison.
Revaluations, ideally, adjust property tax rates by updating them to reflect true market value. Some rise, some fall, some stay stable. No one, not even elected officials, like revals. But property taxes send a lot of fuel to the engine that drives services, and everyone likes those.
Generally, a reval every decade or so isn't out of the question, especially after new census data sorts out changes in populations, wage levels, employment, education, and scores of other factors that can impact property values.
The last time Elizabeth underwent revaluation, Jimmy Carter was President, 39 years ago. Dunellen's last reval was in 1982. Jersey City almost had one a couple of years back, until it was halted over alleged discrepancies, and so hasn't seen one in 27 years.
In New Jersey's shore-based ninth Legislative District, Senator Chris Connors and Assembly members DiAnne Gove and Brian Rumpf (R-9) say, it's about time.
“Why should taxpayers whose assessments are up-to-date pay more while privileged taxpayers living in Jersey City, Elizabeth and Dunellen get away with paying less?" Connors said in prepared remarks. "Why have these municipalities been given a free pass for so long? What incentive is there for other municipalities to comply with property tax assessment requirements?"
The issue becomes even sticker when school aid is added. Jersey City and Elizabeth are among the state's 31 districts targeted for supplemental state funding (formerly Abbott districts).
"Under the State’s broken and politically-driven school funding formula, large numbers of taxpayers living in suburban and rural areas are forced to subsidize special needs school districts, even if these residents can’t even afford to pay the taxes for their own local schools. So not only are Jersey City and Elizabeth making out by ignoring property tax assessments, but they are also cashing in when it comes to state education aid," Connors said.
Before you get the impression that everyone in Jersey City gets a discount pass, consider that developers of many of the luxury high-rises mushrooming along its waterfront and downtown received extensive tax abatements, which relieve obligations to the school districts and the county. It affords the opportunity for a totally different financial vista than there is for long-time residents, at much lower wage scales and much higher expenses.
The Forked River lawmakers say they can't wait to see where the investigation goes. Connors fields your questions and comments December 16 at 7 PM during "Ask The Senator" on WOBM-AM 1160/1310.