GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — After seeing its ratable base eroded by $90 million over the last year, the township is spending nearly $1 million for a townshipwide reassessment.
A huge number of tax appeals received in a two-year period is one of the reasons the reassessment is necessary, Township Manager Arch Liston said. Officials are sifting through about 3,000 tax appeals from homeowners for 2013 after more than 2,000 were submitted last year. This is the first year the township has topped 3,000 appeals.
Liston said the reassessment began late last month and homes will be revalued by an outside company to make sure values are even across the board.
“And it also needs to be done because of the housing market downturn (with a) substantial drop in the value of housing, and you have to get everybody back on kilter,” he said.
In November, the Township Council approved performing the assessment and awarded a $950,000 contract to Vital Communications Inc. to do the work.
Officials said they were hopeful that a reassessment will mean payments that are fair for all homeowners in 2014 and fewer appeals.
The money to pay for the company will be spread over five years, Liston said.
Councilman Brian Tyrrell said the reassessment should provide some relief for homeowners who did not appeal their taxes and that includes half of the township.
“There is certainly a realization that property values are worth less, and we want to make sure everyone is paying for the value that their property is worth and get everyone on the same page,” Tyrrell said.
Despite the cost of $950,000, the Township Council made the decision to hire Vital Communications because the reassessment is a process that needs to be done properly, Tyrrell said.
“I am shocked by the price tag as well, but there are over 13,000 homes in the township. Appeals do not help the budget process. Moving forward the reassessment allows us to know what we can budget moving forward,” he said.
Over the last several years as the real estate market continued to decline, many homeowners’ tax bills were based on outdated assessments and homes that are similar are paying different tax amounts, Liston said.
Municipal Assessor David Jackson said there are 13,428 homes in the township that the company can inspect as part of the reassessment.
“They’re just going come into the home to do the evaluation and confirm what we have on our books, that you have this many bathrooms and this many bedrooms,” Liston said.
The workers performing the assessment will not go into every single home and homeowners are not required to let them inside, he said.
The township Assessor’s Office will conduct inspections in commercial and exempt properties, Jackson said.
“We did the last reassessment in 2009 and naturally there was a downturn in the economy,” Jackson said. “When we look at the home sales we had to look at a two-year sampling period in 2008 and 2009, and the market was up then. Since the revalue, there have been a tremendous amount of appeals over the last few years that have affected our budget and tax rate,” Jackson said.
Township auditor Leon Costello determined that 27 percent of the tax appeals from homeowners were based on declining home values, Tyrrell said.
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