Perfectly Planned Interview: Mayor Vic DeLuca on 2010 Property Tax Re-assessment

The township website has posted a re-evaluation update. During November 29th, 2010 letters were mailed to residents regarding the new assessed value of their property. The letter outlines the procedures residents can take for a informal review of their assessment. In addition, November 29th marks the date residents can view maps of the different neighborhoods, sales data, values of all Maplewood properties and an estimated tax calculator. The township urges residents to not apply the 2010 tax rate to new property values until county, school and municipal budgets are approved and until the 2011 tax rate is established in summer ’11. l Read this on the township website.  l Visit Appraisal System’s website to view Maplewood’s re-assessment maps. 

Mayor Vic DeLuca and I spoke on Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 on Maplewood’s upcoming property tax re-assessment.  I approached the mayor so I could do a write up on the topic for this blog.  My goal was to provide residents with correct information and factual details on the upcoming re-assessment.

My talk with Mayor DeLuca began with a question on when the re-evaluation will start, as well as what information Maplewood residents should know to prepare for the re-assessment of their property.  Below is the conversation that evolved from our talk.

W. S. Hughes: When will the tax re-evaluation start? How long will it last?

Mayor Vic DeLuca: The firm we hire will start the re-evaluation in 2010 and spend 2010 making this assessment.

2011 is when the new values will go on the books.

W. S. Hughes: How much will the tax re-evaluation cost taxpayers?

Mayor Vic DeLuca: It will cost us probably $750,000.  We have roughly 7,200 properties, and we figure it’s about a thousand dollars per property.

W. S. Hughes: Could you explain why Maplewood is undergoing another tax re-evaluation? We just had a tax re-evaluation in 2000.

Mayor Vic DeLuca: We have been ordered by Essex County Board of Taxation to do a tax revaluation.  It’s been 10 years.

Re-evaluations are generally done every 10 years.  This stems from a provision in the Constitution that property is to be taxed, and taxed at fair market value.

Towns are required to go through this process.  Each town hires a professional firm to look at the tax rolls.  They look at the comparable sales of property.  You designate certain neighborhoods as comparable by their neighborhood characteristics.

W. S. Hughes: How is the tax rate devised for residential and commercial property, for example?

Mayor Vic DeLuca: In New Jersey all property is taxed at the same rate.  This means that the same rate must be applied to different types of property, for example commercial, residential, etc.  This is the case for most states.

W. S. Hughes: How are the values of homes assessed?

Mayor Vic DeLuca: First, the houses on Harding street, for example, would not have the same comparable value as the houses on Euclid. They use a formula on how much the land is worth, and how much the building is worth.

W. S. Hughes: What does a tax assessor look at in my home, for example, to determine its property value?

Mayor Vic DeLuca: For residential property the tax assessors’ firm will take a look at the number of bathrooms, if the garage is fixed up, if there is a deck, for example.

A lot of people expect that the assessor will spend a lot of time in the house.  But they will go through your property fairly quickly because they are also using tax records that include the size of the property, the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, the size of the house.  The township has all that on record. When the person goes out on field they have that record.  So they are doing a visual appraisal at most.

W. S. Hughes: Will this tax assessment impact the property value of Maplewood Township as a whole?

Mayor Vic DeLuca: After all the inspections are done an assessment will take place on what the overall property is worth in Maplewood.  During the last assessment Maplewood was assessed at slightly more than $2 billion.

The state of NJ also comes up with an analysis of what they think the property in Maplewood is worth. They come up with a true accessed value.  They say our current value of $2 billion is only 50% of the true assessed value.

That means the state believes that the current value of property in Maplewood is worth $4 billion.

W. S. Hughes: Will residents near the train station pay sharp increases in property taxes, like what happened in 2000?

Mayor Vic DeLuca: We don’t expect that.  Since the 2000 tax assessment houses near the train station have not increased in value as much as houses in other parts of Maplewood.

Theoretically, property goes up and the tax rate goes down. A few people’s taxes go up, a few people’s taxes go down, and the majority of taxes stay the same.  In 2000 that was not the case.

We waited 20 years for the last assessment.  At about that time the value of property near the train station increased dramatically, resulting in the sharp increases in property taxes for those homeowners.

W. S. Hughes: What will Maplewood Township do differently from the 2000 assessment?

Mayor Vic DeLuca: We want to create opportunities to answer questions that people have before the tax assessment begins.

In particular, I want to make sure people understand what is going on, and what types of responsibilities they have.

Before we start the process we are going to engage in a lot more community meetings. We want to make sure people understand the process.  We plan on publishing sales of homes in the last year so that residents can go online and see what houses in their neighborhood sell for.

The good thing about experience is that you learn about the things you did right and the things you could improve upon.  I want to use that experience to make sure that this process is a lot better.

W. S. Hughes: What would you ask Maplewood residents to do differently from the 2000 assessment?

Mayor Vic Deluca: You have to let the assessor into your house.  If not, they might think you have a fixed up basement or a fixed up your attic, and you could get taxed accordingly.

W. S. Hughes: How can residents stay updated on township news and information regarding the tax assessment?

Mayor Vic DeLuca: Pay extra attention to what’s in the newspaper or being mailed out. Some people set the letter from the township aside or recycle it without reading it.  Spend a little extra attention on reading through what we are doing.  That will help a lot in the long run.

W. S. Hughes: In the meantime, should residents schedule home improvements on their houses with the tax assessment fast approaching?

Mayor Vic DeLuca: The concern is always: “If I don’t paint my house will it impact the value?”

It does not matter if you don’t paint your house or if your windows aren’t clean.  People think that if they do work it will impact their property value.  That has no bearing on the re-evaluations.

The re-evaluations are about comparable sales. The tax assessor looks at sales over the year in the block you live in. The sales that have occurred in the last year are the sales that the assessor will use to make the assessment value on properties.

I urge people to do their maintenance work if they have plans to do so.

© 2010 W. S. Hughes l Updated 12.12.11

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. LVTfan says:

    Well said! Assessments should be done frequently. Connecticut requires every 4 years, and that seems about right — perhaps a bit too long a stretch. Neighborhoods respond to public investment, and it is only right that taxes should reflect rather current values.

    Assessments ought to reflect arms’ length transactions; it is hard to say that foreclosures and forced sales fall into that category.

    A better tax system would be to reduce, or even eliminate, the portion of the property tax which falls on buildings and other owners’ improvements to land, and simply tax land value. This is eminently just because landholders don’t make their land valuable; we all do — tenants, employees, shoppers included.

    Check out Harrisburg and a website called Urban Tools for more information.

  2. Resident Planning Geek says:

    LTVfan,

    I love to learn! Thank you in particular for this thoughtful comment. You added to the post with your knowledge, and you left a link and details to read up on with regard to new information.

    – W.

  3. Giles L Crane says:

    The current NJ tax system should be improved. The outrageous injustices due to the current, flawed, Revaluation in Princeton Township and Princeton Borough will drive out low income and retired people who have contributed to the health of the towns over many years, injure the reputation of the towns, and induce tension and mental suffering.

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