Sunday, October 5, 2008

Property Revals Redux

Last month’s council meeting in Matawan is an apt preview of what will happen next year in Aberdeen. Homeowners expressed their shock and dismay over substantial property tax increases following the borough’s property revaluations. The situation was entirely foreseeable but the borough chose to do nothing. To date, Aberdeen Township has done nothing as well.

Between last November and January, I wrote five articles explaining the danger behind the county-mandated property revaluations. Although the revaluations are “revenue neutral” (they don’t affect the municipality’s total tax revenue), they do adjust each property’s assessment to ensure everyone pays his “fair share”; invariably, some people will pay more while others pay less. At the extremes, some people will see huge differences in their property taxes.

On November 23, 2007, I wrote “Matawan and Aberdeen will be talking about tax rates but the only thing that matters is the tax bill. Some homeowners will be facing massive tax increases next year. If these homeowners have adjustable rate mortgages as well, expect to see more foreclosures.”

The following week, I wrote “Unfortunately, the town plans to do absolutely nothing for those poor folk who are about to have their property taxes skyrocket. The town council created this situation through their neglect. The council has the power to help. To act otherwise is heartless and cruel.”

In December, I suggested that “[a]lthough everyone should pay his fair share, I see no harm in allowing those hardest hit by the revaluations to transition to the higher property taxes. The municipality could provide financial assistance, essentially limiting a single year’s tax increase to 10%.”

Following publication of the newly assessed property values, I provided a table listing several properties whose taxes would leap from 30% (houses) to over 100% (condos).

At the time, my detractors still had the courage to attack me on my blog (and thereby improve my writing, for which I’m grateful).

“Your postings really show your ignorance. Perhaps you should spend more time reading and less time blogging.”

“Stop posting lies and trying to acare [sic] people.”

“Aberdeener isn't informed - just has to [sic] much time on hands and presents erroneous conclusions as facts.”

“Your facts simply are not correct in the real world, and what's worse is that it seems that you don't care that you are spewing misinformation”

“Aberdeener's calculations seem to exhibit a sense of paranoia and fractured logic that is best treated with psychotropic drugs.”

Fast forward to the present. According to Kurtis Roinestad, “[o]ver 25 percent of residents' tax bills [in Matawan] have gone up by at least a thousand dollars.”

Though Matawan has chosen its fate, there’s still time for Aberdeen. Here are three steps the township should take:

  • The final revaluation numbers will be submitted in January. In the annual mailing that informs property owners of their assessments, the township should also provide the projected change in property taxes based upon the 2008 appropriations, indicating the projections do not include any possible tax increases for the upcoming year. The notice will give people about six-months warning to prepare for possible tax hikes.

  • The state constitution requires all property to be assessed in the same manner, thereby prohibiting a phase-in period. However, the township can provide low-interest loan programs to those hardest hit, giving homeowners time to adjust to the higher property taxes.

  • Lastly, the township could prevent this from recurring. In an earlier posting I had suggested requiring each property owner to have his property assessed at least once every ten years. Not only would this enable a property owner to “schedule” when his assessment could go up, it would also mitigate any tax penalties for home improvement. (Major construction would still be assessed upon substantial completion.)
Mayor Sobel recognizes the problem. He saw the anger in Matawan and next year is an election year. We’ll know in January if he or the township chooses to do anything or not. >>> Read more!

19 comments:

NSectionJoe said...

This re-evaluation and its very real costs will be felt in Aberdeen and Matawan very soon. It will be very shocking to most of us.

Unfortunately the average citizen needs to understand that while the re-evaluations will be a significant cause of the soon to be levied increase to our already high taxes, the real and obvious causes have been in our faces for a very long time. Most of us in Matawan and Aberdeen have allowed these costs to sky rocket out of the control of us the taxpayers. How many of us know that the school taxes amount to 65% of your tax bill. The services from your municipal government is only 19%. 19% for your police, public works and all other municipal services we rely on. But 65% for school is killing us. Some will say that the problem is in Trenton. That is just the beginning of our nightmare.

Most people will soon react with shock and awe to these mandated re-evaluation increases. It's too late for the things that have also added to the devastating taxes and costs we have had to pay for years. Costs incurred by the taxpayers long before the re-evaluation ever came into being. These costs, which most of us allowed was truthfully caused by the out of control and out of touch spending by our Board of Education and other entities within Matawan and Aberdeen. Doubt me?

Ask yourself the following questions, questions just related to the school system:

1 When the school construction referendum went through at a cost to paid by the taxpayers of $38,000,000.00 with little if any real control on the necessity and costs of the entire project. The per household costs probably added $350.00 annually to your taxes just to repay the $38,000,000.00 over twenty or more years. That $350.00 is a fixed cost already in place every year even before pensions and benefits, retirement, fuel costs, salaries and much more get added through the annual budget process.

2 When they needed (wanted really) a football stadium with a synthetic turf field with all of the bells and whistles for lighting, cameras and security, at a cost of $1,500,000.00. What did you do? This monstrosity to be built at a time when test scores were in the basement and computers were not working district wide. What did you do? Where are the test scores now for our district with a per pupil cost over $12,500.00 for each child? A hint would be to look in the school basement if any of our schools had a basement that is.

3 When the snack bar and rest rooms were built at the athletic field years ago, built at a cost of $500,000.00, a building, which is used less than twenty times a year. What did you do? Did any of our elected officials say "do we need to spend so much money on something used so infrequently?".

4 What will the costs for our school district to fight the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) complaint filed against our district just to bring the athletic field and seating access and all school grounds and buildings into compliance with ADA requirements. What will you do? Will anybody be held accountable? Is anyone ever held accountable?

ASK YOURSELF: Wasn't there someone who should have thought of or been aware of these things during construction so long ago? Shouldn't someone have known it would cost a lot more money after the construction was finished. Is anyone accountable to the taxpayers?

More monies just pulled out of the taxpayers pockets, more monies of course in excess of the vast monies already spent on the school and its facilities. Monies spent without close monitoring as to any real need and with little checking on material costs among many other things, by our local and state officials. Officials paid to keep check on such things.

These few examples were out there for all of us to question. Some of us did and the rest of you just pay and pay. Every year you sit at home and write that BIGGER TAX CHECK, year after year. This year writing that check without questioning the costs, will really hurt. GUARANTEED!

We are all about to feel the pinch and this one is really going to hurt. Don't just sit there. STOP THE INSANITY! Appeal your taxes, each and every one of us. They would not know what to do if we all finally said "WE ARE MAD AS HELL AND WE CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE.

WE MUST ALL STAND UP AGAINST THE OUT OF CONTROL COSTS IN OUR COMMUNITIES. RIGHT NOW! IT MAY BE TOO LATE, BUT AT LEAST WE CAN SAY WE TRIED.

THINK ABOUT IT. APPEAL YOUR TAXES!

The tea party in Boston was not that long ago. Taxation without representation lives.

Anonymous said...

A better question would be: Why would the school district "fight" bringing the schools into ADA compliance? Isn't this a federal law that was put into place many years ago? Does Aberdeen think it is "above" complying with federal law? Oh, wait! I forgot where I lived for a moment.

nightshiftcb said...

N S is right. The schools knew during the design processes that some of their facilities needed to be made available to the handicapped in order to comply. If you were in a wheelchair you would appreciate being able to get up a ramp and be in an elevated position to better view a game or event? Think about it at present you are only able to sit along the fence line.

We know the athletic facilities are in place for a long time but make the changes before a lawsuit, otherwise you are spending taxpayer money on rat lawyers. Monies that could have probably fixed the problems for less.

I think the point NS was trying to make was that people who are paid an awful lot of money should have known in advance or should have prioritized such changes.

Schools no different than businesses, do not do anything in advance for such things. They wait to see if a lawsuit is filed rather than spend the money up front.

Makes sense to somebody? Money paid to lawyers is going down a rat hole. Or into a rat pocket.

KimsMomsHusband said...

I forgot where I lived for a moment.

Good one.

If it were not so sad it would be funny. What is truly sad is that the same government that did not watch the Wall St. situation is the same government that will now dole out the money to save these criminal enterprises. yes I said criminal enterprises. One other thing you can be damn sure these titans of Wall st. will not serve one day in jail. Why? They make BIG political contributions.

Anonymous said...

Interesting perspective. But is the suggestion legal. Granted the reval should have been done sooner, but the funding of low interest loans to help pay for the increased taxes of some residents makes nice reading, BUT IS IT LEGAL? The reval process is set by state law and out of the control of the township committee and they should not get involved.

Aberdeener said...

I have proposed the idea to a number of public officials and no one has suggested the law forbids a low-interest loan program to those hardest hit by a jump in property taxes.

Anonymous said...

Joe only has it half right. Once again we voted down the school budget, yet this mayor and council did not make any significant cut to give us tax relief. They ignore how we vote, as they have for many years. They are both to blame and now it is going to really hurt.

NSectionJoe said...

NSECTIONJOE IS HOME FOR LUNCH

First off I must correct myself on one or two items from my initial input on this subject. Firstly you would be appealing your assessment not your taxes. While it is a play on words it still deserves consideration on many fronts. Secondly the breakdown on taxes has changed to the point that our school taxes encompass 70% of our total taxes and municipal services are now 16%. The 16% is the best value for the services we receive other than our garbage tax, which gives you roughly 104 trash pickups a year coupled with 24 recycling pickups as well as a good bulk pickup (washers, furniture and the like) program for about $250.00(+or-) a year on average.

I stand corrected.

Like my father said "enough is enough". There is little left to give.

Anonymous said...

The problem in Matawan was the majority Democratic Council held off mailing the reval notices until after the election. Sneaky yes, illegal who knows? Our problem with the Council is that knowing how hard the property owners were going to be hit they (Bunyon, Cannon, Malley, Mendes and Mullaney) did nothing to keep the municipal budget down. Instead they spend more on engineering fees, legal fees, etc., then ever before. Is this the action of a responsible government.....HELL NO! Yet we see businesses and homes with BIG signs for Malley & Bunyon. How could anyone who wants government accountability vote for Bunyon & Malley?

Disgusted in Matawan

Anonymous said...

They must have went to school at Kauff, Scudeiri, CME Incorporated. Classes given 24/7 on how to steal from the taxpayers and where everyone graduates at the top of the class.

F all of them and our council too.


Middlesex Jim

Anonymous said...

Middlesex Jim

Since you live in Matawan maybe you can tell me who has pumped all of the money into your dem campaign. I have seen all of these very large signs being put up all over Matawan the past couple of days. A landscaping truck and trailer with your Buddy Mullaney directing the, shall we say illegal workers.

Looks like Scumdeiri has pumped oodles of money into ensuring this campaign and the train station development goes his way.

So much for pay to play and honest government in Matawan.

KimsMomsHusband said...

I saw the same thing just yesterday coming down 79. I would have to agree there are an awful lot of signs for such a small town race. Someone got infused with cash. That is politics for you.

Anonymous said...

Scudiery, Scudiery, Scudiery, Scudiery. Something is going on. Scudiery & Mullaney want Matawan enough to spend all that money on those stupid signs. Scudiery owns property at the Transit Village site. Councilman Mendes works for Scudiery managing the parking lot at the same site. The big signs on Main St are located on businesses that are somehow connected to a local hospital where Scuidiery & Mullaney are on the Board. It's like the Kevin Bacon game, all roads lead to Scudiery. Bunyon and Malley are "yes" men for Mullaney. One homeowner across the street from the Matawan Borough Community Center (a voting location) has a big sign on his property. Guess they like huge increases in taxes, a deficit Budget 2 years in a row and Mullaney pulling the strings. Towns like Red Bank don't have big signs like Matawan. At least Red Bank cares about the appearance of their town. I saw Mullaney and three workers putting the big sign up too.

Bunyon insisted on a Recreation Ordinance outlining the duties of the Recreation volunteers, when the Ordinance was up for a vote Bunyon was advised by Mullaney to vote no, and he did. Even though Bunyon looked like a fool. Even though money was spent for the Attorney to review this Ordinance. This is how the Council wastes time and money and doesn't handle the deficit Budget!

Tonight the Council will vote on the first of several "emergency appropriations." In other words they are borrowing from the 2009 Budget to pay bills in Oct. 2008. And you think Aberdeen has issues. I trust that the residents of Matawan see through the scam Mullaney,Bunyon, Malley, Cannon and Mendes are running and vote for Fitzsimmons and Urbano.

Disgusted in Matawan

Anonymous said...

Aberdeener - the State constitution forbids local governments from lending or aiding credit - but that all misses the point.

I have no problem paying my fair share as long as I'm getting value for my money. I do not think this is the case when a million dollar comes off the top of the municipal budget to go to the Township Engineer, Attorney, and others who are appointed for making the right political donations and not for their skill.

I do not feel that I'm getting value when school facilities are financed through a questionable leasing arrangement to avoid a public referendum.

I do not feel that I'm getting value when the County will not finish the last link of the Henry Hudson Trail through Aberdeen.

Luckily we have a great Police Department and Public Works Department with dedicated employees that do provide value. Personally, my experience has been that we have excellent teachers as well.

Unfortunately, our elected officials and senior officials often do not provide value and spend much of their effort misleading the public.

Aberdeener said...

I apologize for mis-characterizing my plan as a low-interest loan. That's technically inaccurate since no money is being transferred from the municipality to the individual. Rather, these are low-interest non-payment penalties that are structured to mimic loans.

I believe such a plan would pass legal muster.

Anonymous said...

Reval notices are sent out in late November as a result of the State Law. It is not a local decision. Contact your friends under the Golden Dome for the reasons as to why.

Aberdeener said...

At tonight's town meeting, I offered my suggestions to 1)Include an estimated tax bill with the assessment letter and 2)Offer a reduced penalty for late-payment on the last 10% of the tax bill.

Regarding the first suggestion, the town manager showed great reluctance, insisting the tax bill was not the issue, only the assessed value. (I repeatedly argued most homeowners would not understand the tax implications from just the new assessment.) However, after coaxing from Mayor Sobel, he agreed to discuss the idea with the tax assessor.

As for the second idea, Councilman Drapkin made a good point that it wouldn't help those people whose tax payments are bundled with their mortgage payments. However, Mayor Sobel put the kibosh on the idea by stating it would be impossible to budget. I disagree but I don't have a vote.

Mat Ave Blake said...

The field at the HS DOES BENEFIT alot of the Matawan Aberdeen area - students, band, all kinds of sports, and more.

So I will defend its usage. But, if I remember correctly, and I may be wrong as I was a new owner at the time, how much of the HS project and athletic field renovation was on A SEPARATE QUESTION during a voting period? I could swear we voters said YES on a separate question... so.......

Aberdeener said...

Mat Ave. Blake,

The school board majority voted to adopt Quinn's plan to use a lease-purchase agreement, thereby avoiding a second question on the ballot. In other words, they voted to deny the public a vote on the issue.