LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - The Ocean County Board of Taxation has notified Little Egg Harbor Township that an order of revaluation could come later this year as a result of a continued decline in property values, township Tax Assessor Joseph Sorrentino said.

"This is basically saying that the county can order a revaluation or you can voluntarily do an assessment. It can be expected that an order from the county could be here in the coming year if the trend continues of properties selling for less and under assessed values," Sorrentino said.

Sorrentino said he saw this trend of declining property sales in 2010, which was the reason why he recommended a township-wide reassessment. When a revaluation was conducted in 2005, there were 1,000 fewer homes than there are today and that number is now 11,000, he said.

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"This is serious and we do have to do deal with this. If we ignore it we're going to get a revaluation letter from the county," he said.

In recent months, township officials have been at odds as to whether to perform a revaluation or a reassessment. Revaluations are comprehensive and done by a third-party firm, while reassessments are often done by municipal staff and can be done completely or partially. They are often less expensive that revaluations. Officials continue to discuss the options, but have not committed to either a revaluation or reassessment, he said.

Last fall, residents from some of the township's senior communities voiced concerns to officials about potential plans to conduct a revaluation with a $750,000 price sticker over a reassessment.

"I would be personally involved and my staff would be personally involved, but regardless, if we do a reassessment we will have to hire an outside company to assist us," Sorrentino said.

Sorrentino said he has previously told township officials that a reassessment, using township employees, would cost about $50,000 in overtime and regular pay.

"The mayor and I have met with Joe to plan what is still needed. The scope of the storm does change how he would handle a possible in-house reassessment. The ultimate need for the township is still a reassessment or revaluation or a combination of the two as a hybrid," said Township Administrator Garrett Loesch.

Several months ago, when officials were discussing a township-wide reassessment, it would have been exterior home inspections only, but Hurricane Sandy has changed all that, Sorrentino said.

"As far as ratables, we lost about $54 million due to the storm and we lost about three times that from tax appeals last year," Sorrentino said.

The township has more than 4,000 homes that were affected during Hurricane Sandy, and interior inspections need to be conducted on at least those properties, Sorrentino said.

"We are going to be working on the effects of Sandy for years. The real estate market is the worst in my professional life. Sandy gave us a one, two punch that no one was prepared for," he said.

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