At 1st tax reval info session, Fulop still says Jersey City was chosen selectively

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Over 200 Jersey City residents attended the first of seven information sessions regarding the Jersey City property revaluation that must be completed by November 1, 2017, as ordered by Gov. Chris Christie (R).

“This is informational as well as an opportunity to alleviate some of the fears that some of you may have against the misinformation that could be out there. For the next year, this could be the highest priority for me and the rest of the team,” said Mayor Steven Fulop.

Almost a year ago, the Christie administration announced that Jersey City, Elizabeth and Dunellen would be forced to due revaluations, causing Fulop to call the decision political.

While Fulop and Christie have had an icy relationship for years, a spokesman for Christie fired back at the time that “the common thread among them [the three municipalities] is local officials’ failure to do their jobs and fulfill their constitutional requirements.”

During the next portion of today’s meeting, Mark Duda, Vice president of Appraisal System, provided a slide presentation, beginning with the definition of a Jersey City revaluation.

“A revaluation program seeks to spread the tax burden equitably within a taxing district by appraising property according to its true value and assessing it based upon such value,” Duda stated.

Further, Duda explained that the revaluation does not increase the total amount of revenue to be raised by taxation, but rather only collects the amount of tax dollars that local and regional school, county and municipal government determine necessary to operate.

According to the presentation, the Jersey City revaluation is needed since the last reval was in 1988. Also, the average ratio the property is assessed at, compared to its market value, is 23.66 percent and the coefficient deviation is 36.38 percent.

Other criteria included changes in the neighborhoods and individual properties.

Additionally, there are seven steps regarding the appraisal of property.

First, each home owner will receive, or has received, a letter from Appraisal Systems informing property owners that they will be canvassing properties without an appointment between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 5:00pm. This would be considered the first visit.

If there was no one home during these hours, a notice will be left for the owner regarding a second visit that will occur during the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. If these hours do not work, an individual appointment can be made.

During the visit, inspectors will be measuring and sketching the outside of the property and conducting a site inspection. They will take into consideration, the style, condition, quality of the property.

The interiors, including all levels and all rooms of the home, will also be inspected and will take approximately just five to 15 minutes.

If the home owner has not responded to schedule a second visit, and the inspector was not able to access the interior, an estimate would be given to the property. If the homeowner feels that information is incorrect, they still have the opportunity to contact Appraisal Systems.

Duda also stated that additional factors inspectors consider are the neighborhoods, sales tax map, and the market analysis of sales trends.

The fourth step is the notification that each property owner will receive in the mail. Mailing will be sent December or the start of the new year.

The letter will also have instructions on how to set a meeting to review the assessment.

The fifth step is a one to one meeting set up by appointment. Meetings are held Monday  through Saturday, morning, afternoons and evenings.

The last two steps include transmitting the value to the city and county, and then if the property owner is still not satisfied, there is an opportunity for a tax appeal, according to Duda.

During the public comment portion, Caitlin Frantz, a Jersey City resident, shared her concerns about using sales prices as a basis for the assessment.

Frantz explained that two homes with the same square footage and layout, but one with a view of Hamilton Park and the other of a police headquarters, within the same area, are priced very differently.

“When people are purchasing a home, they weren’t just looking at their purchase price, they were looking at what their monthly payment would be which included a much smaller tax assessment on one of the house, and a higher tax rate on a different house,” she said.

“The assessment was not the same which lead to a very different tax for two condos. So I am concerned that you’re using sales prices, and assessment values that are already very different, and probably not correct, that wouldn’t be correct sales info,” declared Frantz.

Fulop also responded to a few comments from the public, particularly regarding Christie’s letter ordering Jersey City revaluation.

“It’s not something that we have a choice on. It’s not something across the entire state of New Jersey,” explained the mayor, who said there are over 30 municipalities in the same predicament as Jersey City and most have not been forced to do a reval.

“Whether there’s a freeze, there’s not a freeze. How high can things go, who goes lower. We are just following the state statute and have very little flexibility about it. We’re just making sure it’s being done carefully and properly.”

At a public meeting early last year, Fulop defended his council record of voting against the reval, stating that “it is catastrophic for you living in this city,” later declaring “people who are arguing for that are entirely disingenuous: entirely. They are doing it purely for hatred for me.”

Additional sessions on the subject are listed below:

March 25, 10 a.m., Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center, 140 Martin Luther King Dr.
March 28, 7:30 p.m., Grace Church Van Vorst, 39 Erie St.
April 3, 7:30 p.m., Cityline Church, 1510 Kennedy Blvd.
April 4, 7:30 p.m., Hank Gallo Community Center at Lincoln Park
April 10, 7:30 p.m., School 28, 167 Hancock Ave.
April 11, 7:30 p.m., School 7, 222 Laidlaw Ave.

For additional information visit, ASINJ.com or email JerseyCity@asiNJ.com.