By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Maplewood residents who think they are paying too much in property taxes are filing a high number of tax appeals. The numbers used to determine how much they pay must be revised to avoid the appeals.
The Township Committee voted last week to spend $60,000 to hire Appraisal Systems Inc., the same company that did the 2011 revaluation. Mayor Vic De Luca said June 5 that, starting this fall, the firm will update property assessments based on sales data so revised numbers can go on the books for January.
A spokesman for the company did not return a phone call seeking comment.
“This is really an offensive move to try to stem the tide against these tax appeals,” De Luca said. “The economy is affecting the sales, and people are making these appeals.”
In the past two years combined, the township has been hit with 889 tax appeals, not including those filed directly in tax court.
Most of the appeals, 564, are for 2012, records in the municipal tax assessor’s office showed. With the average home assessment at $422,800, municipal-purpose taxes are increasing by roughly $61 in Maplewood this year, according to town records.
De Luca said tax appeals “are a real problem for us.” He added that successful appeals lead to “further creating disparities” within neighborhoods because some residents who appeal their taxes end up paying less than their neighbors.
It also affects the ratable base for their entire town, which has fallen by $13.7 million from 2011 to 2012, according to the records in the tax assessor’s office.
“Every time there’s a successful tax appeal, it reduces our overall value,” De Luca said.
The assessed value of a property is used to determine how much property owners pay in school, county and municipal taxes. That number, based on the land, the building and any improvements, should reflect the market value.
But, residential- or commercial-property owners who feel their properties are worth less than before can mount a challenge.
A reassessment differs from a revaluation in that interior inspections of properties are not required. Instead, the process is based on sales data that may go back as far as two years.
South Orange updated its property values this year based on the number of tax appeals it faced, and on housing-market fluctuations. This year, 110 tax appeals were filed with the county tax board, compared with more than 500 in 2011, records in Village Hall showed this week.
Philip Sean Curran can be reached at 908-686-7700, ext. 116, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.