EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Mayor James "Sonny" McCullough has a great house to sell you: his.
"I can't afford the taxes," McCullough explained.
McCullough said he has been taxed out of his home by the local rates and by last year's township-wide revaluation, which caused his property taxes to shoot up nearly 60 percent, to $31,056.
"It's more than what I can afford," McCullough said. "It's kind of disappointing. I thought I would be able to live and die in my home, but it's gotten to the point where it's gotten up so high."
McCullough, 71, has lived in the township's Seaview Harbor section since 1974, when he and his wife, Georgene, moved out of Atlantic City's Chelsea Heights neighborhood. They moved another 500 feet in 1985 when they bought land and built their current home for $360,000.
Last year's reassessment said that home was worth slightly more than $1.1 million.
The McCulloughs are not the only people who have elected to vote with their feet. Real estate sales records show no Seaview Harbor properties traded hands in 2012.
Now? Five are on the market, for the average price of $1.3 million.
However these prices suggest the township's new assessments are too conservative: the asking prices are about 60 percent higher than the new township assessments.
The 92-home bayfront neighborhood of Seaview Harbor was built on the road between Somers Point and Longport in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The owners of these large, waterfront residences have long been both literally and philosophically closer to the residents of Longport, with whom they share a post office. Tax records suggest about one-third of the properties now are second homes.
Last year's revaluation emphasized the difference between the residents of this cozy enclave and the rest of the 43,323-person township.
Before the revaluation, the average home in Egg Harbor Township was assessed at $137,285, less than half the average $307,785 Seaview Harbor property. Township residents paid $5,804 in local property taxes on average, versus $13,106 in Seaview Harbor.
This split widened when the township ratified its long-overdue revaluation on Oct. 1. The average township residential assessment immediately increased by about 50 percent. But Seaview Harbor's values nearly doubled.
The number of million-dollar homes there increased from one to 16. McCullough said these values are too high, considering the hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage done by Hurricane Sandy.
Still, the real surprise came this month when the township mailed its property tax bills. The average Egg Harbor Township residential property tax bill increased by less than 1 percent, tax records show, while Seaview Harbor property taxes increased nearly 90 percent, to $24,192.
Property taxes are a blend of school, county and municipal taxes. About two-thirds of the property taxes raised in Egg Harbor Township go to the school district, compared to less than one-fifth to the municipality, and the balance to Atlantic County.
The Township Committee sets the municipal tax rate. McCullough has been on the committee since 1986 and has served as mayor for all but six years. Asked what personal responsibility he had for the township's tax rate, McCullough first pointed to the schools.
His personal tax bill includes $20,016 for the township's school district. This is about a third more than the $15,257 the district reported it spent per-pupil in the 2010-11 school year, the most recent figures available.
"I sort of hold the state responsible for that," McCullough said, because the New Jersey Pinelands Protection Act unfairly made the township absorb residents.
"But we never ever received any financial support from the state of New Jersey," McCullough added. "So consequently, the schools are mostly impacted by the growth that took place."
He also blamed the broader economic downturn, township tax appeals and the steep decrease in ratables in Atlantic City, which have boosted county taxes elsewhere.
For now, McCullough said he plans to stay in the township. He would like to find a place in the township's West Atlantic City section, between Atlantic City and Pleasantville.
But if he doesn't find a place, he has an alternative:
In March 2012, he and his wife paid $150,000 for a 1,200-foot waterfront condominium in a North Palm Beach, Fla., high-rise. She spent most of last winter there, he said.
The taxes there? Just $2,569.
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