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Reassessment Results Show Drastic Drop in Moorestown Ratables

Based on the results of Appraisal Systems Inc.'s reassessment, the value of Moorestown property has dropped considerably since the market tanked five years ago.

The results of the township's latest reassessment show Moorestown's ratable base has dropped by more than $800,000,000 during the last five years. 

Appraisal Systems Inc. (ASI) completed the reassessment at the end of 2012 and recently posted the initial results, which show the township's ratable base presently stands at approximately $3.9 billion.

(Click on the attached PDF to see the numbers in more detail.)

That's a drop of $827,000,000—or 17 percent—from 2008, when Moorestown last had a revaluation (which was also performed by ASI). The total assessed value of the township at the time of revaluation—just prior to the burst of the housing bubble—was $4.746 billion, according to township financial officer Tom Merchel. 

That number fluctuated over the last several years—climbing with the addition of new construction, sliding every time the township lost an appeal—and the township's estimated ratable base in 2012 was $4.596 billion.

Township officials and ASI, as well as most property owners, certainly expected the ratable base to drop as a result of the turbulent state of the real estate market. 

ASI vice president Jason Cohen said Moorestown was unique in that its last revaluation was done at the height of the housing market boom.

Property owners began receiving notice of their new assessments in the mail earlier this month and ASI has been holding interviews with property owners at Lenola Fire Hall throughout the week, said DeKlerk. As of Wednesday, 165 people—out of 7,300 properties—had requested to meet with the reassessment firm.

Cohen said the response thus far has not been huge, "but we'll probably get more," adding that between 2 to 5 percent of property owners typically request a review of their reassessment. 

There has been some grumbling about the new assessments from property owners whose values decreased, but saw an increase in their taxes.

Township officials and ASI representatives explained at town hall meetings last fall that the results of the reassessment would vary, but the idea was to reestablish tax fairness.

"Some people’s taxes will go up, some people’s taxes will go down, others will stay the same," said township manager Scott Carew. "If you’re one of the ones whose taxes go up, you’ve been doing better than your neighbors up to this point. You’re not being punished—they’re being evened out.”

The township still needs to collect the same amount of money in taxes so it can keep on operating—providing things like trash pickup, police protection and other municipal services—and Cohen explained that the $800,000,000 difference in the ratable base has to get absorbed into the tax rate. So even though property owners might see a drop in their assessed value, "it might not come down enough to compensate for the increase in the tax rate ... This is just a function of the math."

Merchel said he expects the township to save roughly $500,000 a year post-reassessment as a result of not having to defend, or lose, tax appeals. The township has lost more than $3 million over the last few years due to lost appeals.

ASI will be meeting with property owners now until Feb. 7. To schedule an appointment, contact ASI directly at 201-493-8530 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

A statement on ASI's website explains that, "These one-on-one meetings are designed to continue the information gathering process and may result in an increase, decrease or no change to the proposed assessed value depending upon the facts relevant to each individual case. No decision can or will be made at the time of your meeting. Appraisal Systems, Inc. staff and the municipal assessor will consider the information obtained and notify you by mail with the outcome of the review."

For more information on reassessment, including an updated timeline and a list of every residential assessment in town, visit ASI's website.

Unhappy with the results of your new assessment? Email rob.scott@patch.com and tell us why.

ML January 25, 2013 at 09:10 PM
If anyone wants to fight about grammar and spelling, head on over to Roxborough patch...plenty of material in the stories there.
Archie Bunker January 25, 2013 at 09:19 PM
So for all you arguing about not paying our fair share from 2008 how do you explain my taxes went up both times despite a 10% loss of value and no improvements. This is a tax hike to get around the 2% cap, pure and simple.
I heart Mo-town January 25, 2013 at 09:41 PM
ML - I work well over 40 hours per week and I do it 12 months of the year and i don't make anywhere near 90k. I worked for a Board of Ed for over 10 years and the benefits are impressive - better than those of us in the 'real world' make AND they have their all-powerful union to back them up.
I heart Mo-town January 25, 2013 at 09:43 PM
....and they aren't putting that much thought into it -- they have lesson plans which remain the same each year (so 2nd week of November in 2011 was the same lesson in 2nd week of November 2012 and it will be the same during the 2nd week of November 2013). Pretty straight-forward to me .....
Saul January 25, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Go fight city hall and ask! then explain how it works that this raises everyone's taxes and just not those who were not paying their fair share before. get over it or move. if you sell and your house is worth less than they said, then you will be right. will that make you feel better? would you even be jumping up and down if your taxes went down
G. Williams January 25, 2013 at 10:11 PM
Regardless of how much information the Council provided (and they did), regarding the entire reassessment process there would still be those who say they were not informed, or were misinformed. For those of you who don't know, state regulations require that all revals or reassessments must be revenue neutral. NO new taxes. Reassessments are not an exact science since they are based on comps, size, rooms, lot, location, condition, etc. A house may be assessed at one million, but sell for 1.2, or (less likely) .8 million. The final selling price is determined more by the Buyer vs Seller market at the time. A Buyer may pay more simply because they want that house, or the listing price was high, or the quality of the houses particulars were high. None of these things can be factored in a reassessment. For those of you who think that the recent (to be bonded) capital improvements, Town Hall, Fields, parks, etc, will impact the budget, that is incorrect. In 2014, and again in 2017, a large portion of the debt service will have been satisfied. Adding the new capital to the debt still won't rise to the debt payments currently being paid, and which are provided for in the budget. On the current reassessment, there is a 15% rule wherein if your homes' value is within 15% of its' assessed value, you can not appeal. My value went down by $69,000. while my tax increased by $2000.00. On the other hand, I know my home would sell for more than the assessment. It is what it is.
Archie Bunker January 25, 2013 at 10:47 PM
Saul, You have totally ignored the question. Instead basing your answer on an emotional rant. This is a tax increase. The threshold the township used to see a tax decrease was 16%, if you did not hit that threshold your taxes went up. Fair how???
Rick Rohrbach January 25, 2013 at 10:48 PM
Gordon - You wrote - "For those of you who think that the recent (to be bonded) capital improvements, Town Hall, Fields, parks, etc, will impact the budget, that is incorrect. In 2014, and again in 2017, a large portion of the debt service will have been satisfied. Adding the new capital to the debt still won't rise to the debt payments currently being paid, and which are provided for in the budget." If we didn't do these projects, wouldn't the budget decrease?
Archie Bunker January 25, 2013 at 10:50 PM
Thats all well and good does not make it right. Btw I have no idea what your referring to the "15%" rule, ASI and the tax assessor told me I can and should appeal.
Ham and eggs January 25, 2013 at 11:45 PM
It looks like the "hulkster" is now named Gordon. Ok "Flash Gordon" tell us more about reval and how the democrats voted it through in 2007.
M'town Truth January 26, 2013 at 12:05 AM
OMG. Someone in this town understands how this works. Thanks, GWilliam for saying these things so clearly. Apparently, I was unable to explain the process to the satisfaction of many of the people whining here- maybe you will have better luck!
TrueRepublican January 26, 2013 at 01:26 AM
" maybe not enough to offset the new higher tax rate completely. " Can't believe my own eyes.... thank you Mr. M'town Truth
Saul January 26, 2013 at 02:18 AM
Archie, I'm sorry you can't keep up. Your new bill is higher and mine is lower. Up til now I was overpaying and you were underpaying. Now we both pay our fair share. Obama would be so proud of you.
M'town Truth January 26, 2013 at 02:33 AM
You really are unable to comprehend logic, aren't you. Go ahead and wallow in your confusion and hate just like the rest of the liberal whiners.
Archie Bunker January 26, 2013 at 02:41 AM
Saul, Apparently you could not have graduated high school. Again you fail to understand that I could not have paid less than I was suppose to since my house was 2 yrs old when the first re-assessment happened. Thus it was at its highest value. But I do commend you on your Obama comment, that is the exact sentiment the dems have always tried to convey, --class envy.
Saul January 26, 2013 at 03:04 AM
What difference does it make how old your house was? What matters is the value and according to you your value declined less than others thereby increasing your taxes. If you lost less than others in effect you benefited and the reward for this benefit is you now pay your fair share. For me i paid too much before and lost more value than you and now pay less.
G. Williams January 26, 2013 at 05:37 AM
Ham, I never said In my comments above that I agree with the reval. It never should have been done in a declining market. In fact, the twp lost a few million because of it. As to who was really responsible for the reval, you'll have to ask the experts above. And, It isn't Gordan, it's George, but you already know that. Archie, You can always file an appeal, but according to the assessor if the assessed and real or comped value are within 15% the appeal board does not have to hear it. I was also told that when I filed an appeal two years ago. I won my appeal not due to value, but because they oversized my house by a thousand sq. ft. Coincidentlly, they got it back this time around. RR, You are correct. If none of the capital projects were approved the budget needs would be lower. That's a moot point since they were approved. I have a question. Considering the Local Purpose tax represents roughly 15% of the total property tax bill, why does there seem to be little discussion about the remaining 85%?
RANDYGTS January 26, 2013 at 06:40 PM
"Shouldn't the market be the best indicator of value?" Rick -- I understand where you are coming from, but let me ask you a couple questions: What if someone sells without a real estate broker. Maybe they take 4-5% less for their house. Should their assessment be lower? What if someone sells their house completely furnished, at maybe $100,000 more than they would have otherwise? Should their assessment be higher? If you want the assessment to match selling price, is that true if the house sold a year ago? Three years ago? Where do you draw the line. I think another responder made the point -- the reval is done to establish a base line across the entire town. Size of house, age of house, neighborhood etc, etc. -- all things equal your assessed value should be the same. Someone gets a job transfer and has to sell their house quickly -- someone else may be able to wait for a higher offer -- that affects selling price, but shouldn't affect their assessed value. You with me on this?
Townie January 26, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Randy, you're making the incest in abortion case argument. What if.... Send me the listing for the "including all contents" house. Once I decide if I like it, then you'll have to tell me where to get a mortgage for the closing price. If you knew that the sales price was the new assessment...it would actually improve transparency, reduce misc. add-ins, and improve the buyers chances of repaying the mortgage. People sell houses for a reason, some pressing; some not. Market price is what someone will pay that a seller will accept. It's imperfect, but more likely to be correct than someone from North Jersey coming into town and telling everyone what their house is worth. If a house was under-valued there would be multiple bidders. A real estate commission is based on the total value the BUYER will pay. The seller taking home 94% of the value vs. one taking 100% is a personal decision...not a market differentiator. A $1M home sold for $950k because the seller didn't have to pay a commission cost the town $1,143 / year based on the new assessments. Let's say that happens 10 times a year...big deal. The system doesn't work, but the tax based on value. I feel its more likely to be accurate based on what someone recently paid versus someone without intimate knowledge of the market telling me what I can get.
Tom January 26, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Randy, I think this description flies in the face of what you suggest. Revaluation is a periodic program undertaken in order to appraise all real property in terms of its FULL MARKET VALUE (bringing all properties to 100% of their true market value and by the same standard.) Market value is defined as the price a purchaser who is willing but not obligated to buy, would pay an owner, who is willing but not obligated to sell, taking into consideration all uses to which the property is adapted and might in reason be applied. Also known as tax equalization, revaluation ensures that all property owners pay their fair share of taxes based on the actual true market value of the property they own. By the very definition above, a sale price should be market value! Time can influence this but a recent sale is more valuable than one from 3 years ago.
Townie January 26, 2013 at 08:30 PM
OK...Here's a bit of real time assessment math. The following are FACTS (pulled fresh of the MLS system and the ASI website): On January 15, 2013, (11 days ago), 3 homes in Moorestown were sold. House A sold for $800,000; B for $624,900, C for $637,200 The proposed assessments from ASI: A) $966,100, B) $475,200, C) $590,100 Over under Assessment A) $166,100 Over (ie - $3,800 over taxed) B) $149,700 Under ($3,421 tax break) C) $47,100 Under ($1,076 tax break) Now if things stayed that way...town only lost $637...but.... The first thing the new owners of house A do is appeal...and win. Now they get back their $4 grand per year and the rest of us help pay to put the kids in House B and House C through our schools. Half of the houses in town are below market, so the game is to get as low as you can before the music stops. THE SYSTEM IS A JOKE. Don't forget that we then have to pay county and state taxes based on this crazy math. For fun you should go try to figure out the Burlington County equalization table. That goes from joke to pure fiction. When the market finally turns and values begin to increase, those the most under-appraised win for years.
Moorestown resident January 26, 2013 at 11:29 PM
It appears that the estimated tax does not include the Fire District so add another $400.00 to $800.00.
Townie January 27, 2013 at 12:30 AM
Correct
Rick Rohrbach January 27, 2013 at 01:47 PM
Randy - I referenced several houses sold in the last month (not a year or more ago). My point was that many of the ASI assessments are way off actual sale prices and don't fairly represent market value (for those homes). Your hypothetical don't represent a typical sale and, while they may apply for a few homes in town, they likely don't apply to many (or any) of the homes in the sample I reviewed. I simply looked at the most recent 20 homes sold in town and reported on Zillow. The ASI assessment values for more than 1/2 of those homes are 10% or more under the actual sale price. If those homes are used as comps for the other homes in those neighborhoods, it is possible that entire sections of our town are valued under market. Why does this matter? If the ASI numbers (overall) are deflated, it's much more difficult for anyone to fight their assessment value. In other words, no one is going to fight to have their assessment number increased. If this is done uniformly across town, it doesn't matter; everyone will pay an appropriate allocation of taxes. If some areas are lower than actual market but others higher, we have a problem. That's why I asked. I have no information to suggest that the overall numbers are grossly imbalanced but the small sample I reviewed seems to have below market valuations so it certainly begs the question.
Rick Rohrbach January 27, 2013 at 02:00 PM
George - I didn't bring up the Local Purpose tax, you did when you brought up the Town Hall, Rec Center, and Fields projects. I agree it's a small part of our budget but you suggested the new capital projects have no impact on our budget. Of course that's wrong. But if you live in a world where no impact means "no increase" I guess you're right. 2013's budget is not necessarily the floor for 2014. We need to stop thinking that way. There is nothing that forces us to spend at least as much or more every year. Politicians need to stop thinking that way. I'm sure the new Town Hall and Library will be beautiful but if you ask me if it was wise to spend $13M for office space and a new library (across the street from the existing library where there was no fire), I'd say "no." If you want to discuss the rest of our budget, that would be great. Would love to see some savings there too.
RANDYGTS January 27, 2013 at 03:57 PM
George -- I understand what you are saying but I completely agree with what Rick wrote this morning. The overall problem is that these major capital spending decisions went back and forth over essentially three different councils/mayors, and politics ended up driving too much of the process. Two things are true -- we are spending more than we should have, or needed to have spent, and we aren't utilizing that location to the best that it could be.
Rakesh Gupta January 28, 2013 at 01:38 PM
My property value went down and my taxes went up. Thanks a lot for the reappraisal......
Yah Mo B There January 28, 2013 at 01:58 PM
As far as values go, there are items that really can't be accounted for in an assessment vs. a purchase. For example I have a very old kitchen. If I dropped 80k for a new kitchen my sale price would increase but from an assessors point of view it's just a kitchen, right? You could in theory have 2 identical houses in sq ft, yard size, etc. One may be redone completely and the other older and not well maintained. I don't imagine they can get into that sort of detail. Correct me if I'm wrong on that.
Townie January 28, 2013 at 02:14 PM
They do account for updates to kitchens and bathrooms. It's math (formula driven), so it may not account for tile vs. marble...but they do change the value based on relative newness. They know that a 20 year old kitchen is worth less than a new one.
Yah Mo B There January 28, 2013 at 02:18 PM
Thanks. I'm sure to the subjective nature of this it could create discrepancies though. Maybe in the 5% range which while small can be tens of thousands with an average assessment close to 500k.

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