All Montclair property owners can expect their property tax assessments to change following a reassessment that’s now in progress, some more than others, the company doing the work told the Township Council Tuesday night.
Steven Rubenstein of Realty Appraisal Co., himself a Montclair resident, did a presentation to the council at its pre-meeting discussion session. His company will work off of a land and building database created during a township reevaluation five years ago.
“We will be revising all of the values from that 2006 reevaluation, including the thousands of properties that have been changed since that time,” Rubenstein said, later adding, “This is a downward reassessment.”
Under questioning by 2nd Ward Councilman Cary Africk, Rubenstein said that even Montclair residents who had successful tax appeals will have updated assessments.
“All assessments will change,” Rubenstein said. “Every single assessment will change. Some will change a lot more than others.”
The point of the reassessment is to adjust the property values throughout Montclair so they reflect current market values. Real estate prices plummeted after Montclair’s reevaluation was done, prompting Montclair residents to file tax appeals that reflected the decreased value of their homes. Those successful appeals have proven to be a huge financial burden on the township, with $2.1 million in tax refunds required last year and as much as $4 million being projected this year by Township Attorney Ira Karasick.
In addition, there’s a need to level the playing field in Montclair, so that property owners who never filed appeals, but whose home values declined, are not shouldering an unfair burden in terms of local taxes.
“The assessment seeks to restore the uniformity that’s been severely eroded by five years of tax appeals that have plagued the township,” Rubenstein said. “The taxpayers who have filed appeals over the last five years have gotten reductions. Their assessments are not going to change as much as some of the other assessments in town. Their new reassessment value may not be much lower than what they’re at now. For the thousands of property owners that have not filed tax appeals over the last five years, and whose assessments are therefore the same now as they were in 2007, those are the properties that are going to see the most percentage change in their new value.”
According to Rubenstein, “A reassessment does not mean multiplying every assessment in the town by the same factor: 20 percent off of every current assessment. What it does involve is resetting the appraisal clock: Oct. 1, 2006 to Oct. 1, 2011.”
However, the reassessment will require far less work than the reevaluation, according to Rubenstein.
To reassess, Realty Appraisal will look at real estate sales last year and this year; see what price properties are listed or are under contract currently; and factor in the settlements and tax appeals that Karasick is handling now. Montclairhad more than 1,000 tax appeals filed this year.
The assessors will not have to visit every Montclairproperty, according to Rubenstein.
“Of 10,000 properties, we’ll going to be going to a couple of hundred,” he said. “We’re going to inspect a very small amount of properties.”
Realty Appraisal will need to send inspectors to visit some residences, mainly those with outstanding building permits, and will not call before hand. Its representatives will knock on doors, and leave a door tag if the resident isn’t at home. The reassessed values will go on the books for 2012.
The company will be sending residents letters informing them of their homes’ new valuation in mid-December or after Christmas.
Realty Appraisal, based in West New York, N.J., started its work right after July 12, when the council awarded it the contract, and is about 20 percent done with the reassessment, Rubenstein said.