Like many towns Asbury Park is entertaining opportunities to share services with other towns. That town’s professionals will service our needs as well as their own, in order to comply with Gov. Christie’s guidelines for trimming budgets. The practice is meant to lower payouts for services. But to start with a one-person department, which employs just one aid, doesn’t seem like an economically wise strategy or one that will yield the desired result. For one, the timing couldn’t be worse.
If this really 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 boosted market values here, partly due to an influx of residents who invested mega dollars and sweat equity in the existing housing stock , in addition to the countrywide housing bubble. But not all of those heightened 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, is what it sold for on the open market. But over time the selling prices and original tax assessments 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. The revaluation 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, as reassessments do, but individual improvements made since the last reval. Therefore revals involve inspections and are by necessity intrusive, highly subjective and open 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. It will rain appeals.
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Our tax assessor, Mary Lou Hartman, has remained a constant for 24 years, executing her duties ‘by the book’ under the state code that licenses her, at times to the strong resentment of new property owners, and despite what must surely have been aggressive attempts from influential spheres to sway her judgment. She doesn’t ride builders’ floats in parades and you won’t see her clinking glasses with the town’s elite in all the right places. She just does her job. We do need to save money, but we also need to retain people of character and integrity who are intimately familiar with our city.