Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 7
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
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Fair Tax-Revaluation Group Making Progress

Ellen Gilbert

The Princeton Fair Tax-Revaluation Group convened its fourth community meeting last Wednesday to discuss the group’s investigations, progress, and to hear about the prospects for legal action to overturn and redo the controversial 2010 tax revaluation.

“It was wonderful,” summed up Princeton Fair Tax-Revaluation Group member Jim Firestone.

“People are putting their money where their mouths are,” he added. “We have 45 checks now, and day after day it’s picking up.” The firm of Potter & Dickson has been chosen to represent the group, and Bill Potter was present at the standing-room-only meeting at Township Hall. Describing the case as a “public interest question,” Mr. Potter encouraged pursuing it in a timely manner.

Time was also on Jim Floyd’s mind. “Quite frankly, eight months have been wasted,” he observed. He expressed disappointment with the municipalities’ elected officials, suggesting that they had, perhaps, spent “too much time checking on bedbugs.”

“Do it right; we don’t want a band-aid,” proclaimed signs (with pasted on band-aids) leading into the community meeting room where Mr. Floyd, Mr. Firestone, Dale Meade, and Kip Cherry spoke, along with dozens of Borough and Township residents who rose from the audience to talk about perceived inconsistencies in the revaluations of their homes.

“The rubber is hitting the road,” proclaimed Mr. Floyd.

Mr. Firestone and Ed Schrayer presented a graphic explanation of revaluation mapping that showed evidence of “systematic errors” that appear to have occurred as a result of allowing assessments of newly-built McMansions to drive up area revaluations. Inaction would, in fact, “be discriminatory,” said Mr. Firestone.

The brevity of inspectors’ on-site visits was noted (“two minutes,” according to some), as well as their unwillingness to discuss what constituted “improvements.” Mr. Firestone half-jokingly referred to what he called “the existential tax,” which he defined as “your tax for being there.”

Mr. Meade suggested that neither municipality is holding ASI, the company that conducted the revaluation, to their contract, and that “a large fraction of the revaluation assessments have been over-adjusted by the tax assessor [Neal A. Snyder], raising concerns about the validity of the revaluation process.”

Predicting that the effects of the 2010 revaluation would be felt for the next ten years, Mr. Meade observed that “If this assessment is off now, you’re going to be paying and paying and paying.”

After telling the story of a home with a fish pond that was assessed as a swimming pool, Ms. Cherry pointed out that the property data record cards sent to homeowners after the revaluation often failed to include important information.

The Joint Revaluation Study Commission, consisting of elected officials and representatives from both municipalities, held an information-gathering session the following evening. It attracted a fraction of the attendees who turned out for the Wednesday evening meeting. Mr. Firestone was among those who attended, however, and he expressed the Fair Tax-Revaluation Group’s willingness to work with the Commission.

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