Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 49
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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Township, Borough Review Revaluation And Its Aftermath

Ellen Gilbert

Borough residents can expect a letter during the coming week telling them the assessed value of their homes, as of October 1, 2009. Township residents will receive similar notices in about two weeks’ time.

At a joint meeting of Township Committee and Borough Council on Monday evening, Tax Assessor Neal A. Snyder and Appraisal Systems, Inc. CEO Ernest F. Del Guercio, Sr. reviewed the whys and wherefores of revaluation, and responded to questions from members of both governing boards and the public.

In reviewing the revaluation process, which was ordered by the County Board of Taxation, Mr. Del Guercio emphasized that the point was to “make sure that everyone pays their fair share, no more, no less.” All properties were assessed “by the same standards,” and, he noted, “revaluation does not not raise taxes.” He and his colleagues sought “as much homogeneity as possible” in their assessments of houses, figuring in such variables as size, quality of kitchens, number and quality of bathrooms, age of the structure, and recent comparable sales figures.

Representatives of Appraisals Systems visited as many properties as possible, Mr. Del Guercio reported, noting that they “will continue to entertain calls from taxpayers who did not allow them — for whatever reason — to inspect their properties” and that they “will continue to visit as many commercial and private properties, inside and outside, as possible in the many months ahead.”

All of the assessments, and the variables that helped determine them, will be posted on the website shortly after the letters have gone out. “There’s no editorializing,” Mr. De Guercio said in describing the information that will be will available at the website. It was suggested that copies of the assessments and the contextual information on which they were based be made available at the library, for those who are not accustomed to using computers.

If they are unhappy with their home’s assessed value, homeowners may ask for individual meetings with Appraisal Systems representatives. Mr. Del Guercio stressed that the firm is eager to accommodate such queries, offering appointment hours Monday through Saturday to give taxpayers “the wherewithal to prove us wrong.”

After hearings between the homeowner and Appraisal Systems representatives, the original evaluator of the property will “review and discuss it” with the assessor. “If another visit is warranted,” Mr. De Guercio said, “we will do that.” After that, the property owner will receive a letter of notification informing them of whether or not the assessment changed.

Although property owners are supposed to respond to Appraisal Systems within ten days of receiving their assessment notices, there is some “flexibility,” according to Mr. Del Guercio. After that, the only way an assessment can be changed is through the County Board of Taxation, which will hear appeals in May of 2010.

Mr. Del Guerico’s suggested “rules” for working through an assessment are to avoid comparing assessments, and to strive to prove the value of one’s own property. “It’s not appropriate to go through the tax list, find the lowest common denominator, and then petition the court to tax you at that rate,” he commented. “High taxes are a way of life, and not a reason for appeal.”

Of particular concern to Council member David Goldfarb was the further recourse available to those who are unhappy with the assessed values of their homes. He worried about “the luck of the draw” in whoever among the company employees might be sitting across the table from an unhappy home-
owner at any given time.

“The message should be that when people are still unhappy after the informal meeting with your firm, there is a chance to sit down with the assessor,” Mr. Goldfarb noted.

In other business Monday evening, Township Committee passed an “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” resolution, supported by a $5,000 “Impaired Driving Crackdown” grant from the State Division of Traffic Safety. Local police will be looking especially hard for impaired drivers in the area through January 3.

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