Council 'Disappointed' with Sole Reassessment Bidder
The only company to bid is the same one council members blame for supposedly botching Moorestown's 2007 revaluation.
Members of township council hesitated Monday after learning the only company to bid for the township’s reassessment was the same firm they believe botched the last revaluation.
Township tax assessor Dennis DeKlerk sent out requests for proposal (RFP) at the end of March and got just one bid back: Appraisal Systems Inc. (ASI), for $195,080.
ASI performed the 2007 revaluation, which according to some members of council resulted in a multitude of errors, which in turn contributed to an avalanche of appeals that have led to $3 million in lost tax revenue over the last four years.
“I’m disappointed we only got one response and it’s the vendor who did the last reassessment—and we all know how well that turned out,” said Deputy Mayor Greg Gallo.
DeKlerk and financial officer Tom Merchel said the primary source of the problems that followed the earlier revaluation was the market crash, which occurred just after ASI finished the job, and believe too much blame is being placed on the firm.
DeKlerk said council’s feelings are natural—the first reaction in situations like this is to “lay it at the foot of the contractor,” he said. But “in this case, the real culprit is the market crashing … Working (as a tax assessor) for other towns, I know this to be the case.”
But Mayor John Button, who along with Gallo and Councilman Mike Testa was serving on council when the appeals started pouring in in 2008, said while there’s “no question” the tanking economy is partly to blame, it doesn’t account for all the problems.
“One of the strong issues were the inequities (in value) among similar homes in similar neighborhoods,” Button said. “That doesn’t have anything to do with the economy.”
Merchel and DeKlerk explained, due to the volatile nature of the housing market, reassessment firms like ASI are in high demand right now, which is why they were the only company to bid.
“The pickings are slim,” said DeKlerk.
According to ASI's website, the company has either completed or is in the process of completing more than 40 revaluations in 10 counties across the state.
So whether they like it or not, council may be stuck with ASI, unless they want to rebid the project. Hoping to avoid such a delay, council plans to bring in ASI for a presentation so the company can soothe their concerns before a contract is inked.
“We want ASI to come in and talk to us … and tell us why we should have confidence in them doing this assessment again when the results of the last one were so incredibly difficult for the town,” said the mayor.
DeKlerk included a number of provisions in the RFP to mitigate potential problems, which include requiring reassessors to make data updates in the field using portable electronic devices to cut down on the risk of data entry errors and a “real-time link” between the firm’s computers and the assessment office’s computers.
Council will hold a special meeting, before their next regular meeting, to further discuss the matter, Button said.
During that same meeting, council will also continue its discussion of the field improvements project.