Elizabeth noncompliant in order by state

ELIZABETH, NJ — The state’s Division of Taxation has deemed Elizabeth and Jersey City in violation of their April order to submit plans for property revaluations. Both cities missed the May 4 deadline to submit plans in compliance with the order. The cities have until November, 2017 to conduct the assessments for the 2018 tax year.

Dunellen, the third municipality cited by the division, met the deadline by submitting the required compliance plan. Investigations into the three municipalities were opened last year. The ordered revaluations are the first time in approximately four decades that the state has taken this kind of action.

According to the division, both Elizabeth and Jersey City have not submitted plans that lay out dates for launching a revaluation and hiring an outside firm to do the work.

Records supplied by the state to LocalSource reveal that Jersey City has not conducted property assessments in 28 years, with Elizabeth coming in at 40 years.
31 municipalities have not held revaluations in 25 years or longer, and state officials have already opened a second round of investigations.

A letter sent to Elizabeth stated that, “On April 4, 2016, the Division of Taxation ordered the City of Elizabeth to implement a Municipal-Wide Revaluation. The Order required, among other things, that the City submit a proposed plan of compliance within 30 days of the date of the Order, which was May 4, 2016. The proposed plan of compliance was to set forth the dates upon which the City will: (l) enter into a contract with a qualified firm to update the tax maps; (2) solicit bids to enter into a contract with a qualified revaluation firm; and (3) begin implementation of the Revaluation to ensure completion by November l, 2017,” the letter read.

According to the letter, however, the revaluation compliance report submitted by the city “failed to provide any information and simply listed, “Unknown” for every estimated start date and completion date.” The letter called the report “unacceptable because it provides no information and reflects that the city has done nothing to develop a proposed plan to complete the revaluation as ordered. Accordingly, the city is in violation of the order.”

A revised plan was ordered within seven days of the date of the May 27 letter, which stated that the department would “take appropriate action to ensure compliance with the order and timely completion of the revaluation.”

Joseph Perone, Director of Communications at the state treasurer’s office told LocalSource that different courses of action are being considered in response to the noncompliance. “All I can tell you is this,” Perone said. “If there is continued noncompliance, the Division of Taxation — in consultation with the Division of Law — will consider a number of options in response.”

Jersey City contacted the state on the day of the deadline, requesting an in-person meeting with state officials, noting in their letter that the correspondence shows the city’s willingness to cooperate. The state responded, stating that they were willing to meet with city officials only after a plan was submitted, reiterating that the city was still in violation of the order.

Jersey City spokesperson Jennifer Morrill told LocalSource that a plan in compliance with the division’s requests has already begun. “We responded to their letter and have gone back and forth with the state as recently as Friday requesting a meeting,” said Morrill. “In the meantime, the RFP has already started to be drafted and will be posted shortly to the website.”

Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, in office since 1992, is reported to have said that the state’s timeline is “unrealistic.” He has also said that the state will get “minimal compliance” from the city.

Perone said that some form of correspondence from Elizabeth was received by the state, but that they will have to review it.

Attempts to reach Bollwage were unsuccessful as of press time.
According to statistics, Union County has the highest rate of overdue property revaluations, with 13 municipalities in the county overdue for a reassessment by 25 years or more. According to Perone, investigations into Westfield and Winfield — both in Union — have already begun.

Michael J. Darcy, executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, said that the issue of property reassessments is a complex one. “The issue of revals has two sides,” Darcy told LocalSource. “On one side, we want everyone to pay their fair share of property taxes. On the other side, in some communities it has been so long since all properties were revalued, the cost to conduct the full reval is very burdensome to the municipality, and some long-time residents may find the neighborhood around them increased significantly in value thereby causing a senior on fixed income to be subject to a significant property tax increase. Nobody likes to see such residents taxed out of their home. It can create very difficult circumstances,” he said.

Union, one of the 13 municipalities listed as overdue for a reassessment, has gone 40 years without a revaluation. But Union Mayor Manuel Figueiredo said that the township has no plans to schedule a revaluation. “As of this point, we have not been notified by the state or county that we must proceed with any property revaluation,” Figueiredo told LocalSource. “There are no plans, from our end, to initiate any revaluation at this point.” He said costs would be based on a request for proposal at that point in time.

Other municipalities on the list include Linden, Mountainside, Roselle, Clark, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Garwood, Kenilworth and Springfield. Inquiries sent by LocalSource to Roselle were unreturned as of press time.

Michael Frangella, tax assessor for Linden, said, “the Union County Board of Taxation is having a meeting with representatives of the Division of Taxation on Monday, June 13, to explain the revaluation process with all the county assessors. As of now they will have another

meeting sometime later in the summer to lay out a schedule for revaluations on a town-by-town basis.”

Frangella said it could be a long process. “It will probably be two years before we go and the process could take two years.” He also commented on the cost to do a reval. “As far as the cost, it could be as high as 1.5 million with the updating of the tax maps.”