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For Some, Bloomingdale Revaluation 'Life-Changing'

Lake community property owners voice concerns to borough council.

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."

Scott March 08, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Is this what Kinnelon has to look forward to with the re-val?
Leeann Coleman March 08, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I live on .27 acre in Morse Lakes. My land in the reval was assessed at $126,000. I can do math. That means they are assessing the land in Morse Lakes at slightly over $450,000 an acre. Are you kidding me???? Really, are you kidding me????
Leeann Coleman March 08, 2012 at 07:14 PM
My whole property (2 bed/1bath 1000 SF ranch) was assessed for $258,100. First guy who brings the money can have it. Today.
hopenchange? March 08, 2012 at 11:25 PM
it has been my understanding that Bloomingdale's tax rate was based on the fact that the properties were assessed (tax wise) at approx 60% of true value; and once the re-evaluation takes place the tax rate will go down to offset the correction in the "current market value of the properties." True that if you take the current tax rate and do the math based on the new assessments; our taxes will double; since most of the homeowners I spoke with had their valuations double from what it was. Hopefully the powers that be will get a corrected tax "rate" before July 1 tax bills are due to go out. other wise maybe all of us will have to "revolt" and not pay any taxes - wouldn't that be something?
Cara Mirabella March 09, 2012 at 01:43 PM
In fairness to our mayor and council, I feel the need to point out that I've owned my home for 12+ years and this is the first time we've been reassessed. My taxes are going up. Am I surprised? No. Am I happy about it? NO. We all need to take advantage of tax appeals (due by May 1) if we feel we were not reassessed correctly.
KinParent March 09, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Im not a Bloomingdale resident. When the tax bills mentioned are being "projected" to be going up $6,000, etc. Are people using the old tax rate to calculate what their new bill will be? My understanding is that when there is a re-val the rate will be adjusted too after the reval. Is that not being communicated by the town? Ariana? Anyone?
KinParent March 09, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Just saw this. Has anyone been able to confirm that the rate will be changing. I am sure some people will see increases, but assuming the rate goes down (since now all properties are valued higher) the jumps may not be as crazy.
Ariana Cohn-Sheehan (Editor) March 09, 2012 at 04:46 PM
KinParent, The tax rate hasn't been set yet because it depends on the municipal budget. If a budget increases, so does the tax rate. The tax rate projection referenced in this story is based on the 2011 tax rate and the company did note that it's based on if the budget were not to increase at all.
KinParent March 09, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Right, but that rate won't apply now that the values have gone up considerably. The assessed values are a factor in determining the rate. If the budget is flat (even if it goes up, at least no huge increase) then the rate would go down because of the vastly increased values. (Based on the scenario that "hopenchange?" outlined above. ) Assuming I am not missing something, doing the math, with much higher assessed values, the tax rate would be lower to raise the same revenue. So the big projected numbers are most likely only because of the 2011 rate being used. The new rate will probably be lower, unless the budge has some huge explosion I would imagine. Or am I missing something?
KinParent March 09, 2012 at 05:11 PM
What I wrote above works in general. If all the properties are receiving such drastic increases, it would level out. I supposed it might be that this one neighborhood either was way undervalued (even before the reval) compared to other areas in town so they saw such a big increase. Or bad valuations for the entire neighborhood were done.
Ariana Cohn-Sheehan (Editor) March 09, 2012 at 06:51 PM
You're right. When the assessed value goes up, the tax rate goes down so that taxes can be collected to pay for the budget. The mayor also wanted me to note that the budget cannot increase more than 2 percent due to the state-mandated cap.
KinParent March 09, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Okay, so then in general terms: If all the properties go up, the tax rate would go down. In effect a wash (or slight inc, etc). But, in this case, some homes seem to have increased in value a greater percentage then the average across the town. So they either: Have been paying too "low" taxes compared to other homes or The new valuation on their homes was incorrectly inflated for some reason.
Debbie O'Neill March 09, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Hi Ariana - is that 2% increase cap for the entire budget (including school) or just for the municpal piece? If it's all-in, then it sounds as though the estimated adjusted tax rate of 3.710% would not be able to increase to more than 3.7842%...unless I am off track somehow...
Ariana Cohn-Sheehan (Editor) March 09, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Debbie, the mayor was referring to the municipal increase. However, the school district opted to eliminate a budget vote on the stipulation they keep their budget within the 2 percent cap. The district is able to apply for a cap waiver, though, at which point the county would have to approve it and then the public approve exceeding 2 percent. I wrote a story about the preliminary school district budget that was submitted to the county earlier this week (http://patch.com/A-rz71), but since the county already came back with requested changes, the business administrator could not give me a total budget number or confirm that the budget would be within the 2 percent cap.
Debbie O'Neill March 09, 2012 at 07:34 PM
got it - thanks for the clarification Ariana!
Paul March 09, 2012 at 08:07 PM
It totally makes sense why our taxes are so we have some really ignorant people that live in this town and they are the ones in office. Tax rate is going down anyone that doesn't get that even at the current guess of 3.7 with increases in assesses values more than doubled and thefact that the current rate is 6.4 that means most people above that threshold are going to pay more
Paul March 09, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Problem with bloomingdale Is that they can't cut their spending. It's time these people are held responsible it is beyond comprehension how we should be paying 10000 in property taxes for homes under 300000 I know the dems say we have no rateables hogwash the problem is spending and overspending I can tell you we don't need to light up any baseball fields
Carla De Witt March 09, 2012 at 08:16 PM
My projected tax increase is based on the new evaluation from ASI which in my case is $550,000 and the estimated "new" tax rate as it is stated on the ASI webiste. The current tax rate is 6.41. The estimated new rate is 3.71 That would make my taxes $20,405 a year. That represents an approximate $6,000 increase in one year. The municipal budget my be capped at 2 percent, but our individual taxes certainly are not. My property is currently not under valued. I would venture to say not many people pay almost $15,000 per year for a 1,900 sq ft, three bedroom ranch.

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