Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 5
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
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Fair Tax-Revaluation Group Seeks Revised 2010 List of Assessments

Toby Israel
Walnut Lane

Lack of Rooftop Snow Offers Clues to Effectiveness of House’s Insulation

Heidi Fichtenbaum
Carnahan Place


Fair Tax-Revaluation Group Seeks Revised 2010 List of Assessments

To the Editor:

Even as we come up to another due date on our quarterly taxes, many issues remain on Princeton’s Revaluation. The Princeton Fair Tax-Revaluation Group is continuing its analysis of the results of the 2009 revaluation and has made some progress. We also have relaunched our website with a new name, which contains some of the results of this work: www.princetonfairtaxreval.org.

We also have made numerous Open Records Act (OPRA) requests and have received a considerable amount of information. What we have requested are the backup calculations that determined the site values assigned to each neighborhood. We also have requested a revised 2010 List of Assessments that shows the actual amount assessed and billed in the November 1, 2010 tax bills. 

However, while we have received bits and pieces that contain a considerable amount of information, so far none of the responses to our requests have been sufficient for us to weave together the actual material that we requested. In response to our request for backup calculations we have received lists of sales data, and we have received a list of property listings, but what we have not received is data showing what properties were actually considered in determining the site value for each neighborhood, what “flawed” properties were eliminated from the sales data and why, and what listed but not sold properties were considered and how they were taken into account. We have tried to “reinvent” the calculations but we still don’t have enough from the Assessors’ Office to accurately figure this out. 

The revised 2010 List of Assessments showing the actual amount assessed and billed contains judgments from the County Tax Board and corrections made by the assessor. All of this data is entered into a computer and appears on each property owner’s Property Data Record Sheet (if your copy doesn’t have it, ask for it again). And while the bills, containing the revised assessments are prepared from a computer program containing all the revised assessments, we still have NOT been able to get a revised 2010 List of Assessments. 

To consider next steps, the Princeton Fair Tax Revaluation Group (our name has changed slightly) is holding an important public meeting on the revaluation for both Princeton Borough and Township residents. The group will be presenting the status of its work to date, will be seeking a consensus on next steps, and will be seeking public consensus on possibilities for legal action. The meeting will be held in the Township Hall Auditorium, 400 Witherspoon Street, at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 9.

Toby Israel
Walnut Lane

Lack of Rooftop Snow Offers Clues to Effectiveness of House’s Insulation

To the Editor:

With all the snow we’ve received in Princeton, it’s a great time to check your energy use! Lots of snow on roofs means that it’s easy to tell at a glance how well insulated houses in the neighborhood are. The principle is simple: the less insulation in a house attic, the more heat escapes through the roof. That escaping heat melts the snow. If most of the snow we received is still sitting there, and the depth is even, then it is a well insulated and airtight house. Unless it’s a fairly steep metal roof (in which case the snow slides off pretty quickly), or has a high degree of southern exposure (where the sun melts the snow), loss of snow is evidence of poor insulation.

It’s often possible to see exactly where the heat is escaping, because the snow is gone or the depth is much less on that part of the roof. Areas around vents and skylights often have the telltale sign of little insulation or leaking warm air. Usually, when excessive heat lost through the roof melts snow, you see ice dams at the roof edge. As the snow melts, it runs down the surface of the roof, under the layer of snow. It freezes once it gets to the overhanging eaves, which are colder because they aren’t receiving escaping heat from the house. That freezing snow melt can form massive ice dams and thick stalactites of ice extending down toward the ground.

The fixes to these problems are: boosting the insulation in your unheated attic or roof and carrying out air-sealing. A drive-by energy audit after a snowstorm is a great way to get a quick sense of the need for home energy improvements.

Heidi Fichtenbaum
Carnahan Place

Editor’s Note: The writer is chair of Sustainable Princeton Residential Working Group.

For information on how to submit Letters to the Editor, click here.

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