Dozens of residents are unhappy with their recent tax assessments that have caused their taxes to increase by thousands of dollars as the borough is in the process of
The residents, mostly from the borough's lake communities (Lake Iosco, Morse Lakes, Glenwild Lake and Kampfe Lake), spoke out against their assessments at Tuesday's borough council meeting, many stating that their taxes are projected to increase questionable amounts.
Resident Carla De Witt said after the company hired to do the revaluation, Appraisal Systems, Inc. (ASI), visited her home, she was told the land of her one acre lot which was previously assessed at $82,600 was now being assessed at $294,600. The total increase in her property taxes this year was projected at $6,000, she said.
"This is not, 'Oh gee, my taxes went up.' This is life-changing for all of us in terms of whether we want to stay or whether we can afford to go," she said.
Dewitt told the council she was not only displeased with the figure but by the professionalism of the company, as she said she has asked several times for an explanation of the increase to no avail. Dewitt was not the only resident who seemed frustrated with the revaluation company.
Borough Administrator Ted Ehrenburg said Bloomingdale went through a cooperative bidding process with the Borough of Wanaque for a shared service agreement for the revaluation and the boroughs went with the lowest bidder, ASI.
"The company does the assessment and we receive the fallout," he said.
Ehrenbug said the borough has received more complaints over this revaluation than he has received in the past six years working for the borough. According to ASI's website, the revaluation has been concluded and appraisals have been submitted to the county board of taxation.
ASI's website notes that residences make up the highest amount of assessed value in the borough this year at $624,031,600. The total amount of assessed value for commercial properties in 2012 is $82,610,900 and the assessed value of vacant properties in the borough is $19,230,600.
Based on the 2011 tax rate, ASI predicted that if the municipal budget did not increase, the 2012 tax rate would be $3.71. However, the actual 2012 tax rate will be determined by the total 2012 tax levy and final assessments.
Residents and commercial property owners who are not pleased with their tax assessments have until May 1 to submit tax appeals.
"At the time of your appeal you should be prepared to demonstrate any evidence supporting your opinion of fair market value, such as recent sales of similar properties in your area," ASI's website states.
Bob Scherreick, president of the Lake Iosco community association, spoke on behalf of many of the members of his communty, which has 43 residences, in saying that the value of the land skyrocketed, in most cases, past the value of the homes. While the value of the land in some of the lake communities increased by about 305 percent, Scherreick said the value of the property increased on average 173 percent.
"We believe ASI's process was seriously flawed," Scherreick said, adding later, "You got what you paid for, I think."
Scherreick said that, in his opinion, there is no uniformity amongst the valuations in the different lake communities, with the ratio increasing the most in the Kampfe Lake and Lake Iosco communities.
"The people on the lake who are being asked to pay dramatically higher taxes are being left to pick up the pieces," he said.
But Borough Attorney Fred Semrau cautioned the residents that while it is possible that an error was made with the assessments in the lake communities, it is not fair to say that ASI's system has been flawed across the borough. Semrau said the goal of the revaluation process is fairness.
"I think it's important, at this point in time, that before we criticize the integrity of the entire process, what I'm hearing is you just need some answers," he said.
Ehrenburg said Borough Tax Assessor Brian Townsend has been taking questions and concerns from residents who are unhappy with their assessments but he asked those in attendance at the meeting to contact him directly with their concerns and promised the borough would do all they can to relieve the residents who were hit hardest by the revaluation. Ehrenburg also said that until the situation is resolved, it would be "almost impossible to figure out a budget."