Moorestown will undergo a revaluation this year to curb excessive tax appeals that have over the last few years.
Township council gave manager Scott Carew and tax assessor Dennis DeKlerk the go-ahead Monday night to begin the process of prepping bid specifications for a revaluation. Carew said council needed to make the decision before the end of the month in order to conduct the revaluation this year to have new values take effect in 2013.
Carew explained the rationale behind a reassessment is two-fold: “One, to mitigate tax appeals as a result of the current economy and housing market. Two is to mitigate tax appeals as a result of the reassessment from several years earlier that … from my understanding, left a lot to be desired.”
Members of council have voiced dissatisfaction with the previous revaluation, as have homeowners, who expressed their disapproval by filing a record number of appeals. DeKlerk said 200 property owners—nine commercial, the rest residential and a few vacant—appealed their assessments in 2010.
In 2011, the township lost more than $592,000 through appeals. Over the last few years, it’s lost between $2-3 million. Some of that is due to dissatisfaction with the results of the previous revaluation, and part of it is due to the fact that the revaluation was done in 2007—right before the housing market tanked.
The problem is the township doesn't have the ability to defend existing assessments because it doesn't have “solid market values,” said DeKlerk. “We're trying to defend 2007 values in a 2011 market, which is not working.”
Carew said he and DeKlerk would try to have more detailed information about the way forward to council by its next meeting on Feb. 13.
Members of council and Carew stressed the need for public outreach throughout the process, especially given the level of displeasure associated with the last revaluation.
“Clearly there’s going to be an onus on the township … prior to this beginning, (for) a very thorough outreach to the public explaining why, what and how,” said Carew. “And if we fail on any of those things, it could be a huge potential problem.”
He acknowledged while a reassessment is an overall positive for the township, “there will be those who personally this is not good for. Because as the numbers are adjusted, you’re going to have some whose assessment is going to go down, some whose going to stay the same, and some whose going to go up.”
While the amount of money the township raises through taxes won’t go up, he said, the rate will rise, meaning some people will end up paying more, and for those who do “it basically means they’re paying less than they should now,” Carew said.
The 2007 revaluation cost the township $583,000. Assessors canvassed the town, talked to homeowners, measured exteriors, inspected interiors, etc. A new revaluation would entail significantly less work, DeKlerk said. It would be “pretty much an exterior thing,” with assessors checking for obvious changes to the home.
Financial officer Tom Merchel has estimated the new revaluation would cost between $190,000-250,000, and could be paid over several years.
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