Hurricane Sandy is complicating Egg Harbor Township’s first revaluation in more than 16 years as owners of storm-damaged properties begin to appeal their new assessments.
Tim Donnelly, the tax assessor’s office clerk, said the township is referring people to Vital Communications, the Trenton company overseeing the revaluation. Property owners can arrange to meet with the assessors to review their decisions.
One of those residents is Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough, who said his Seaview Harbor home increased in value from almost $464,000 to about $1.1 million despite Sandy-related damage to his chimney, foundation, decks and roof.
“I’m going the same route,” he said. “There’s so much damage in my house from Sandy, I have to ask for some kind of relief.”
According to tax records, McCullough paid $19,609 in property taxes last year. Based on the new estimated tax rate, he would pay about $30,800 per year after the revaluation.
Township Administrator Peter Miller said residents can expect the total tax rate to drop to about $2.80 per $100 of assessed value from $4.22 before the revaluation. The drop is based on the significant increase in the township’s overall assessed property value — from about $2.5 billion to an expected $4 billion.
But Miller stressed that all of the estimates are subject to change based on appeals and adjustments made before the final values are released.
“Some people have had sticker shock,” he said. “Until the number is finalized, we don’t know exactly what it will be, but we’re ball-parking it at $2.80.”
Miller said the general rule for revaluation is that a third of residents will see their assessments increase, a third will decrease and a third will remain the same. And, because of the expected lower tax rate, not everyone who is hit with an increase in property value will pay more taxes.
As for the effect Sandy could have on the revaluation, Miller said that, too, is unclear.
“The value we’re establishing is market value as of Oct. 1, 2012. So whatever the value of your property was on that day is the value,” he said.
Homeowners often can appeal for a lower assessment because of storm damage, Miller said. But once repairs are made, the township’s tax assessor will reconsider the property and adjust the assessment as needed.
If property owners aren’t satisfied by their meeting with Vital Communications, they can file an appeal. While appeals normally need to be filed by April 1, owners have until May 1 because this is a revaluation year, Miller said.
McCullough said he’s heard from a few homeowners who are asking for another look at their new property values after the storm, but he expects more will come forward as they read their revaluation letters.
The storm’s effect has been felt throughout the township, he said, from Seaview Harbor to West Atlantic City and along Somers Point-Mays Landing Road. With many now scared to buy or build near the water, those property values may never fully rebound, he said.
“I look at my house and my street,” he said. “No one’s going to come in there and pay $1.1 million for my house.”
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