Bayonne is embarking upon its first tax reval in almost 30 years, and both the city’s tax assessor and the company hired to conduct the assessment stressed that the purpose of a reval is not a “cash grab” for the city to raise additional revenue.
The Peninsula City hired the same firm, Appraisal Systems, that has conducted multiple revals for other municipalities in Hudson County such as Guttenberg, Weehawken and, most recently, Jersey City.
According to the Joseph Nichols, the City of Bayonne’s tax assessor and Mark Duda, the Vice President of Appraisal Systems, said there are 14,000 residential and commercial properties that have to be assessed before October 1st in order for the city to determine their taxes.
Nichols welcomed the approximately 100 residents that showed up at the Senior Center on West 4th Street last night by trying to assuage residents’ fears that a reval equates to a drastic increase in taxes for everyone.
“This revaluation doesn’t increase the amount raised by taxes. It’s revenue neutral. If the town raised $183 million last year for taxes, and needs $183 million next year – that’s still the amount: it doesn’t go up. If the budget goes up next year to $185 million, well that’s the amount that has to be raised; the reval is not related to raising revenue, it’s related to making the distribution fair,” Nichols explained.
“There are plenty of people that are paying too much, and should be paying less. There are plenty of property owners that are paying about the right amount, and there are also property owners that should be paying more and haven’t been and guess who’s paying for that: everybody else.”
He also explained that since the last reval in 1991, there is a wide disparity between what owners are currently paying in taxes and the actual value of their properties.
“Right now the average property in town is assessed at 34 percent of its value, [which equals] $2.6 billion if you add up all the assessments in town. But, really, the property in town, we know from sales because we do a sales study every year, we know that the property in town is worth about $5.8 billion – so it’s worth several times [more] than what it’s assessed at but the assessment since the last reval was done almost 30 years ago.”
He also noted that at the end of the process when the city knows the true value of every property at current market value, each property owner is going to receive a letter explaining the town’s analysis, as well as the opportunity to sit down with a representative from Appraisal Systems to discuss or challenge the new value of their property.
Next, Duda discussed the process of how the reval will work, which requires all property owners to schedule an appointment between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the workweek, with Saturday hours available so that the appraisers can measure the property’s indoor and outdoor footprint.
Furthermore, approximately 10 Appraisal Systems employees will start fanning out from the center of the city, and if a property owner isn’t home on the first visit, the employee will slap a yellow form on the door to inform the owner that they need to call the company to make an appointment for a day and time for the employee to revisit the property.
If the owner isn’t home on the second try, the employee will then slap a blue form on the door indicating the urgency for the owner to be home on a subsequent visit.
Just as Nichols explained the factors behind the current reval, Duda also pointed out that “neighborhoods change over time, housing stock changes over time, areas become more valuable than others, views change, so all of the things that make real estate more or less valuable will change over time so it’s important to reset the values on a semi-regular basis.”
In an interview after the presentation, we asked Duda what can he expect the process will be like in Bayonne after his company’s experiences in neighboring municipalities.
“I think it’ll go pretty smoothly because we’ve done a bunch of areas in Hudson County, so Bayonne is not the first municipality in Hudson County to go through this process but as you saw there’s some still some hurdles, it’s been almost 30 years and to get folks to understand the purpose of this is really just equitable redistribution, nothing else.”
We followed up to ask, based on the company’s experiences in other parts of Hudson County, what percentage of Bayonne property owners can expect to pay more or pay less in taxes come October 1?
“Typically, there’s an old adage that says a one third of folks [taxes] go down, one third stays the same and one third goes up. Jersey City was a little bit different. The downtown area was really under-assessed, really under-valued. The ratio there wasn’t necessarily a third, a third, a third, but I expect Bayonne to be along the lines of a third, a third and a third.”
He then implored property owners to make sure they allow his employees to enter their premises so that the company can determine the true value of their property.
“It’s great if you can let our folks inside the house, it’s really important that we see what we are trying to appraise, and if there’s anything about your property that you think affects the value, please let us know. We’re trained to spot flooding, exterior influences, traffic noise, you name it, but it doesn’t hurt if you just inform the employee so that they know it,” said Duda.
The entire meeting streamed live on our Facebook Page and can be viewed below: