11 February 2008

My Assessment

I've been reading the grumblings on the internet about the upcoming Hillsborough property "revaluation". I am far from an expert in this area, but I understand it enough now to give my opinion here.

The first thing to know is that revaluation is different than reassessment. For many years Hillsborough participated in a program of yearly reassessments of properties. These "rolling reassessments" looked at a different neighborhood, or multiple neighborhoods, each year, and reassessed home values based on recent sale prices and other criteria.

For most of the years that Hillsborough performed rolling reassessments, the program worked just fine - insuring that all properties in Hillsborough were assessed at near their market value, and that everyone paid their fair share of property taxes.

A few years ago, after a reassessment of the Flagtown section, residents in that area were hit with a huge increase in the assessed value of their homes - one that would lead to a property tax increase in one year of greater than 35% in many cases! Obviously something was wrong with the program. After complaints by Flagtown residents, the Hillsborough Township Committee decided to drop the rolling reassessment program.

Since Hillsborough has not been doing reassessmenst for a few years, our assessed values have fallen far enough below market values that a revaluation needs to be done. A revaluation essentially reassesses all properties at the same time - and looks at more than just recent sales in determining value. This revaluation will cost us about $1 million, maybe more, which will be spread out over a few years.

In the revaluation, every home's assessed value is sure to go up, but that doesn't mean everyone will be paying more in property taxes. Some people will pay more, some will pay less - and everyone, hopefully, will be paying their fair share. What will make our taxes go up, at least a little, is the additional cost of the performing the revaluation.

Did our township committee do the right thing by killing the rolling reassessment program a few years ago? Clearly they were being responsive to residents - something we heard a lot about during last year's CSC hearings. Were they being too responsive? Should the residents of Flagtown have been told to get lost? After all, staying with rolling reassessments would have saved us the cost of the revaluation.

I am not sure what the right answer is. But I do know this - I am aware of only one person in Hillsborough who is always right, who has never made a mistake. Until we are ready to anoint him emperor, we should recognize that our township committee has to make a lot of tough choices - a lot of judgement calls - some popular, some not so popular - and endure a lot of second-guessing.

My assessment is that they are at all times looking out for the best interests of the residents and the town - yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. The first fact is the state stopped all assessments in the state while they rolled over a new computer system.

    The committee did stop the program during this time, that is correct.

    When they did have the rolling program in place it was abused and used as a tool to offset equal payments among the newer developments and to punish certain others. The taxing authority used the loop hole of being able to look at high turnover areas to continue to go back and raise taxes on the few, not the whole.

    Thus leads us to a new requirement to do the entire town because we have an out of balance assessment program where some older established homes are only paying about 2/3 or so of their true tax requirement.

    When this is over there will be some happy people seeing their tax go down a few dollars but many unhappy ones when they to most finally anti-up their fair share.