Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 32
 
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
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Joint Letter from Borough and Township Cites Steps Taken on Revaluation Issue

Deputy Mayor Chad Goerner
Committeewoman Liz Lempert
Princeton Township
Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller
Councilman Kevin Wilkes
Princeton Borough

Questions About Equity, Oversight, ASI Informal Review of Revaluation Increases

Corazon Jeevaratnam
Ewing Street

Concern Expressed About Cost of Pool Renovations, Summer 2011 Operation

Tom Hagedorn
Chestnut Street


Joint Letter from Borough and Township Cites Steps Taken on Revaluation Issue

To the Editor:

We want to acknowledge the difficult situation caused by the revaluation whereby some homeowners are experiencing dramatic spikes in their property taxes, and to let you know what steps we have been taking to best address this issue.

The last revaluation was conducted in 1996. Since then, major changes in the housing market have caused major increases in some residents’ assessments. To prevent such dramatic price movements in the future, we can adopt a revaluation maintenance plan in which assessments will be modified each year to keep pace with market changes. Homeowners may experience small increases or decreases in their assessments from year to year, but this will prevent the wild spikes we’ve seen as a result of the current revaluation. When the market changes, we will be able to reflect that change in our assessments within the year. We believe this will result in a more stable and fair assessment program.

We have been exploring possible remedies for the current situation with our state representatives, including a targeted phase-in program for those with the largest percentage increases. The state constitution prohibits the use of taxpayer money for targeted tax relief. Because of this “Uniformity Clause” we need explicit permission from the state legislature in order to offer aid on the local level. We hope our lobbying efforts will create a more flexible phase-in program to benefit all New Jerseyans. We are also exploring the possibility of establishing a privately-funded and operated assistance program which would not be subject to “Uniformity Clause” restrictions.

We have had discussions with the State Department of Community Affairs and as a result we are recommending to our colleagues that we reduce the interest rate on outstanding taxes. We hope this will lessen the burden on those who are having extreme difficulty in making their tax payments.

If you are a senior earning less than $70,000, we recommend you sign up for an existing state program called the “Senior Freeze.” The deadline has been extended to November 1. By signing up now, you will be able to lock in at your 2008 tax rate. Unfortunately, Gov. Christie cut the program this year for new enrollees. But many in the legislature will be pushing to reinstate the program for next year, and if so, you may benefit by signing up before the November deadline. Sign up forms are available in the Township Clerk’s office and on the Princeton Township website.

This is a difficult time for our entire community, and we appreciate all those helping us to find a just, equitable solution.

Deputy Mayor Chad Goerner
Committeewoman Liz Lempert
Princeton Township
Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller
Councilman Kevin Wilkes
Princeton Borough

Questions About Equity, Oversight, ASI Informal Review of Revaluation Increases

To the Editor:

We live in the Ewing-Hillside neighborhood and are still trying to determine why our assessments went up so much and how we can afford the ensuing tax increases. Certainly our neighborhood has increased in value along with the rest of Princeton and we would expect to see this in the recent valuation. However, nothing suggests to us that the market value of our properties, particularly the land, has increased so much in value. In my family’s particular case, our .26 acre plot has been assessed at nearly five times than before. Our tax bill is 33 percent higher than last year. We hear the same complaints from our neighbors.

My husband and I took advantage of the informal reviews held with ASI shortly after the release of the new assessments. We walked into the one-onone meeting expecting to understand how the value assigned to our property was calculated but the ASI representative just kept referring to the county manual and could/would not enlighten us. We pointed out a few negative aspects of our property that a mass revaluation would have overlooked. The representative agreed with our points, jotted them down, and assured us that the adjustments would be reflected in our final assessment letter. Not true. Our letter showed the same figure with no explanations provided. One neighbor’s experience was even worse. Like us, they left the meeting feeling that they had been heard — only to see their final figure go up.

As for the open letter of Township and Borough officials to ASI published in the previous issue of the Town Topics asking for data, formulae, etc., I thought that the data being sought from ASI would have been known to them even before the assessment process began. How else could they have ensured that the outcome would be equitable? With all due respect, I think we would not have the inequities we are now facing if such oversight had been exercised.

The inequity is keenly felt in our neighborhood of small detached homes. Many of the houses were originally built or purchased by Italian immigrants, many of whom came to Princeton to work in the construction and restaurant trades. They brought with them cultural influences that have had a long-term influence on Princeton and greatly added to its quality of life. More recently other nationalities have joined the neighborhood and this has just enriched the diversity of our town.

After talking with my neighbors, it’s clear that if the current valuations were to take hold, a number of us will not be able to live in Princeton anymore and that is very sad.

Corazon Jeevaratnam
Ewing Street

Concern Expressed About Cost of Pool Renovations, Summer 2011 Operation

To the Editor:

My family greatly enjoys using the Princeton pool as seasonal pass members. At the Aug. 8 meeting regarding the pool renovations, I was surprised to learn that the pool complex might not be allowed to open next summer, due to repair and compliance problems. I urge both the Princeton Borough and Township to ensure that the pool complex receives enough funding to be able to complete repairs and to operate during the Summer 2011 season.

I am a supporter of the pool, but I also have concerns regarding both the cost and the plans for the pool renovation. Before either council approves funding the $6 million renovation, I would like to see more analysis made public about the financial implications of the bond issues and the fee increases that future pool users might see. A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that the $2,000,000 contribution by the Borough at a 4.75 percent interest rate for 30 years (and assuming repayment of principal over that time) would cost the Borough approximately $125,000 a year in interest payments, or approximately .5 percent of the Borough’s 2010 budget. This figure would seem to be negligible, but in the new world of a 2 percent overall limit on tax increases, it needs to be considered whether this additional cost would take resources from other areas of the budget and what those areas would be (e.g. the Recreation Department).

Many of the disagreements regarding the renovation plan arise from its less essential parts. One way to save costs and increase community harmony would be to address the most urgent problem (the rebuilding of the actual pool) now, and delay a decision on whether to proceed with funding the rest of the proposal. These plans (for increasing the number of parking spaces, decreasing green space, shrinking the locker rooms, and building a 12-month heated/air-conditioned meeting room) seem the cause of both the majority of disagreements and of extra costs. These changes may be desirable, but do not seem necessary. Given New Jersey’s current economic state, let’s focus on what is most important.

Tom Hagedorn
Chestnut Street

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