Union homeowners on revaluations

UNION, NJ — Homeowners in Union are expressing concern about probable property revaluations within the next year or two. According to Union Municipal Assessor Paul Parsons, the municipality may be ordered by the state to conduct a complete revaluation of property assessments.

“Property revaluations in Union within the next year or two are likely,” said Parsons.
Parsons said that once a revaluation is scheduled, all property owners will receive a letter from the municipal assessor explaining both the purpose and the process of the revaluation. The township will then go out to bid in order to enter into a contract with a mass appraisal firm that specializes in revaluations. Once chosen, the firm — with the assistance of the township assessor — will conduct revaluations, including the inspection of both the interiors and exteriors of all buildings within the Township.

“The basic purpose of a revaluation is to assess all properties at the same standard of value — that being true market value — in order to equitably distribute the tax burden among all taxpayers,” said Parsons. “Therefore, all property owners will see their present assessments change to reflect their property’s market value.”

Market value is an estimate of the amount an owner could expect to receive if they were to sell their property.

According to Parsons, many people have misconceptions about the impact of revaluations. “The biggest misconception of a revaluation is that it raises taxes,’ said Parsons. “The revaluation will not affect the total amount of taxes to be raised by the Township. The amount of the Township’s total tax levy is not determined by the assessments of individual properties but rather by the budgets of the municipality, the county and the schools. The revaluation will only redistribute the tax burden in a fair manner without affecting the total amount to be raised.”

But many Union residents are not convinced of the fairness of the revaluation process.
Diane Anton, who purchased her home in Union 20 years ago, says that the threat of raised property taxes may force many people out of the area. “My husband and I are upset and afraid that they are going to raise our taxes up to $10,000, and we really don’t feel it is worth paying that much in property taxes to live here,” said Anton. “We aren’t thrilled about paying the $8500 we are already paying, so if they re-evaluate and boost us higher, we are definitely going to look into relocating… most likely out of New Jersey altogether.”

Lifelong Union resident and community activist Jason Krychiw is concerned about the direction in which the municipality is headed. “I think it is just another red flag showing the tax policy in Union is heading in the wrong direction,” said Krychiw of the possible tax assessments. “This isn’t a very positive trend and now to see on top of that that Union hasn’t reevaluated its taxes in 40 years and we could possibly see even further increases is very disheartening to me.”

According to Parsons, taxes are determined by multiplying a property’s assessed value by the township tax rate, which is the same for all properties in the Township. “Since the revaluation will result in all assessed values being significantly increased to market value, the tax rate will be reduced by the exact same factor that the total township assessment is increased,” said Parsons. “This proportional reduction to the tax rate will result in the Township’s total tax levy remaining the same as before the revaluation.”

The redistribution of the aforementioned tax levy will apply to those properties that currently are either under-assessed or over-assessed. Under-assessed properties are those properties currently assessed below their market value, while over-assessed properties refer to those currently assessed above their market value. It is these properties that will, according to Parsons, experience tax increases and decreases.

“In all likelihood, just as many properties will see a tax decrease as those with a tax increase,” said Parsons. “Conducting a revaluation creates an opportunity to improve the fairness of taxes without increasing the overall tax levy of the township.”

But Anton says that in her experience, taxes have never been decreased. “I am very disappointed over this revaluation situation,” said Anton. “It is my experience that a town will never reduce taxes, only raise them. The state has gotten ridiculous with their out-of-control property tax rate. There is so much corruption in New Jersey government, it’s not even funny.”

Anton believes that many people will make the decision to move if faced with raised property taxes. “The only thing that will keep us in Union for a little longer is if our taxes are reevaluated and the payment remains the same,” Anton said. “If it gets boosted over the normal yearly amount I fear there is going to be a mass exodus out of this town and it’s going to be difficult to sell our house. Who wants to buy a house in a town where the high school gets a low rating and the property taxes are in the 5-figure range for a small cape or split-level home? We have to pay $10,000 dollars to live in this shoebox of a house and it’s just not worth it.”

As of 2014, Union had an average property tax bill of just over $8,000, with an average county-wide bill of close to $10,000. Union County had the 3rd highest average bill of all 21 New Jersey counties.