'Historic Levels of Tax Appeals' May Lead to Reassessment
Cinnaminson's tax assessor suggests a reassessment for all residential and commercial properties in town since appeals have costed the township well over $600,000.
With the township slated to lose more than $600,000 in uncollected taxes this year due to appeals—an amount Cinnaminson’s tax assessor calls “unprecedented”—a reassessment has been suggested to township committee members.
The next step is for Dennis DeKlerk, the assessor, to contact the county for approval and move forward with the project.
“We’ve had unprecedented and historic levels of tax appeals filed in the township, none of which is defended,” said DeKlerk. “The only way to remedy the losses is to reassess the town to reflect the current market conditions.”
DeKlerk presented to township committee Monday evening and said the only way to remedy the “snowball effect” of tax appeals is to adjust the ratable base.
“There’s no other way to stop the bleeding,” he said.
The best way to do it, DeKlerk suggested, is with a reassessment plan, which is different than a total revaluation. A revaluation was performed in the township in 2007. In 2008, those assessments were put into place.
Then, the market dropped drastically. Assessments are supposed to represent the fair market value of a property. Owners who believe they're over-assessed may appeal to the county. Towns can either defend the assessment, which costs money in professional fees, or acquiesce, which means losing part of the tax base with each appeal.
The reassessment is not nearly as big an undertaking as the revaluation five years ago because an existing database will be used. And it’s not nearly as expensive.
DeKlerk said the township is looking at a price tag of about $200,000 for a year’s worth of reassessments to the township’s residential and commercial properties. The reassessment would take place next year with a new tax rate created in 2014.
“The economy had a drastic effect on property values,” Mayor Don Brauckmann said. “Now, people are appealing—and no one can blame anyone for doing that. In fairness, I think this is the responsible thing to do, to get ourselves in line with current market values.”
Committeewoman Kathy Fitzpatrick, who serves on the township’s budget committee, said with the amount of tax appeals, it’s become “increasingly difficult to plan budgets out and make up a gap of $600,000.”
“With 26 percent of the people appealing for a reassessment,” she said, “the other remaining 74 percent are paying the burden for those [appeals]. I think this is a fair way to spread the pain amongst all of our residents and do it fairly.”
Cinnaminson’s solicitor John Gillespie said there’s an order that would allow the township to spread out the cost of the reassessment over five years as opposed to footing the entire $200,000 bill at once.
“That certainly softens the blow in the year of assessment,” Gillespie said.
Brauckmann also wanted to make sure there can be slight adjustments for every year after. DeKlerk assured committee that is possible.
“It seems like the responsible thing to do,” Brauckmann said.
DeKlerk, who also serves as Moorestown’s tax assessor, said the town is in the middle of its assessment right now.
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