Tonight - June 15, 2011
From the AP Council's Executive Session Agenda
A.A. Tax Assessor
Is the City looking to dump our tax assessor of 24 years?
It is no secret that the City is entertaining opportunities to share services with other towns, where another town's professional will service Asbury Park as well, in order to comply with Gov. Christie's guidelines for trimming budgets. (It's our hope this practice will mean lower payouts for services.) But starting with a one-person department, which employs just one aid, doesn't strike us as an economically wise or results-oriented strategy.
If this is a cost-cutting measure city leaders may want to think again before eliminating one of the most trusted staff-members in the administration -- as the City tries to complete its first post-2002-redevelopment property revaluation.
The redevelopment-era, inflated by the countrywide housing bubble, which skyrocketed our properties' market values. But the values have yet to be fully reflected in our tax bills. Existing homes, as opposed to new construction, are still being assessed using the current tax ratio. Tax ratios start out at 100%. In other words the value a house is assessed at, for tax purposes, what it sold for on the open market. But over time the selling prices and assessed values of properties get out of sync, as sales prices rise or drop. When the ratio drops too far below 100%, state law demands that a revaluation be performed. This was supposed to happen here in 2008. Now AP is working toward 2012 to complete the process.
Revaluations measure not only market values and home sales, but individual improvements made since the last reval. Therefore revals involve inspections and are by necessity intrusive, highly subjective and subject to broad interpretation. The results of our revaluation, especially given the long delay, are apt to span a broad range in wild directions all over town.
Our tax assessor, Mary Lou Hartman, has remained a constant, executing her duties 'by the book' under the state code that licenses her, at times to the strong resentment of new housing owners, and depite what must surely have been aggressive attempts from influencial spheres to sway her judgment. We need to save money, but we also need to retain people of character and integrity who are intimately familiar with our city.
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