Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 6
 
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
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A Prescription for Reducing Pollution and Expenses: Reduce Use of Road Salt

THOMAS H. PYLE
Balsam Lane

Appraisal Company Seen as Blameless for Perceived Property Tax Inequities

WILLIAM HOOVER
Westerly Road


A Prescription for Reducing Pollution and Expenses: Reduce Use of Road Salt

To the Editor:

Since we all seek a greener world, we would all like to eliminate any pollution we can. One such pollution is the copious amounts of salt that have been sprayed on our side streets this winter. Early this morning there fell about an inch of snow. At 10 a.m. our DPW trucks came down Balsam Lane and plowed. By 11 a.m. warmer temperature had melted all the snow everywhere. But on our street an extraordinary amount of salt has remained, blanching the tarmac. Like the salting after the last snow, it will remain on our street and crunch under our tires until the next heavy rain washes it all down into Lake Carnegie.

Is so much salting really necessary? Can we cut it back? That would do a lot to reduce local pollution. It would also reduce our municipality expenses. Reductions of both are needed now more than ever.

THOMAS H. PYLE
Balsam Lane

Appraisal Company Seen as Blameless for Perceived Property Tax Inequities

To the Editor:

Regarding your article “Residents Urge Closer Look at Revaluation” (Town Topics, February 3), I would offer the following comments. First, now you know the shortcomings of raising tax revenues via the property tax. Second, there is nothing wrong with the assessment methodology used by Appraisal Systems Inc.

I am sure that the anonymous statistical data collected and given to the Borough Council is correct, but it has just been used to draw the wrong conclusions. Appraisal Systems Inc. had only one job to do, and that was to bring the Borough property assessments up to current market value. They were to answer the question, “What is this property worth in today’s market?” They were not to do assessments with any regard to where the tax burden would fall. That is a question for someone else further up the totem pole.

Property values in the Borough are composed of two parts: land and buildings. It would appear that the value of land in the Borough since the last assessment has appreciated much faster than the value of any buildings on that land. It appears to me from the data, that in some cases the land value has appreciated more than threefold. That is why it has been worthwhile over the past years for builders to buy the land and tear down the relatively low value houses upon them.

Unfortunately, when the value of the land appreciates at a much more rapid rate than the value of a low value building on the property, it is only logical that the total appraised value of a low value property in the Borough will increase much more, percentage-wise, than a property with a high value building on it. In fact, taken to the extreme, some of the highest percentage increases in assessments have been on totally vacant lots. A further factor that tends to drive up the assessments of low value properties is the fact that so many of these properties have homes which were constructed many years ago and have not been reassessed in the last ten years. On the other hand, many of the higher value properties have homes which have been built more recently and their initial assessments more nearly match current market values.

It is also illogical to conclude that all low value properties are owned by people who can least afford the tax burden. What about the low value rental property owned by a wealthy, absentee landlord? What about the vacant properties owned by wealthy speculators?

The fault of any tax burden lies not in the assessments done by Appraisal Systems Inc. The fault lies in the overall way in which the State of New Jersey raises tax revenues. If the people and government are truly interested in spreading the tax burden based upon the ability to pay, then an income tax, a fortune tax, and a high value consumption tax are more equitable ways to go.

WILLIAM HOOVER
Westerly Road

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