“Turbulent.” That’s the word Jason Cohen, vice president of Appraisal Systems Inc. (ASI), used to describe Moorestown’s ratables.
Since 2008, Moorestown’s ratable base (right around $4.6 billion today) has dropped roughly $50 million every year, according to financial officer Tom Merchel. And during same period, the township has lost approximately $800,000 each year to tax appeals—approximately $3 million total over the last four years.
To staunch the bleeding from appeals, the township is in the midst of a reassessment, carried out by ASI. Once it's completed and the new property values take effect in 2013, Merchel said the township should be able to save more than $500,000 a year, mostly from not having to defend or lose appeals.
“There’s a much better story to tell this time around in terms of why we’re doing (reassessment) and what the effect is going to be for Moorestown,” township manager Scott Carew said during a public forum last week, alluding to the 2007 revaluation.
Moorestown’s situation, like a number of other New Jersey communities, had become serious enough that the county mandated a reassessment, Merchel said. “The number of appeals we were getting, they were concerned.”
“But it was on our radar before (the mandate),” said Carew.
The advantage to the mandate, he explained, is the township doesn’t have to pay for the $195,000 reassessment all at once, but rather over the next several years.
The reassessment currently underway is a notch below the revaluation in terms of thoroughness, Cohen explained. Home inspections are not required during a reassessment; at minimum, field workers will perform an exterior check of the home, cross-referencing the present state of the property with what’s on file from the 2007 revaluation.
Township tax assessor Dennis DeKlerk said the only properties reassessors will ask to perform an interior inspection of “are those that were not entered in in 2007, or if they see a marked difference from the outside.”
ASI field workers are in the midst of residential and commercial property inspections throughout the township. Cohen said they hope to be finished by Thanksgiving, though that’s somewhat dependent on weather.
To ensure the process is as transparent as possible, ASI CEO Ernie Del Guercio said values for all properties will be published on ASI’s website. ASI has also published a list of which of its inspectors are on the ground in Moorestown and where they’ll be inspecting (the list is current as of Sept. 10).
Of course, one of the first questions asked during last week’s forum—and probably the one most residents are interested in—is whether individual property owner’s taxes will go up or down as a result of reassessment.
“They won’t be able to answer that till they’re done,” said Carew. “Some people’s taxes will go up, some people’s taxes will go down, others will stay the same … 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 ratable base is certain to come down even further as a result of reassessment (not factoring in the addition of new ratables, i.e. the Virtua Health and Wellness Center), and Merchel explained that the tax rate would rise proportional to how much the ratable base drops—but stressed that does not mean everyone’s taxes will go up.
ASI and the township will host another reassessment forum from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct 18, at the Lenola Fire Hall.
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