ORANGE — More than 20 northern New Jersey towns that conducted revaluations during the height of the real estate boom have turned to reassessments in the past year to try and bring property taxes back in line with market values.
In Essex County, at least five towns, including Orange, requested reassessments in 2010 and 2011 despite having had full revaluations within the last five years.
A revaluation is a thorough analysis of every property in the entire municipality and is conducted by an outside firm. Reassessments, which can occur more frequently at a town’s discretion, are cheaper and can be conducted by the tax assessor.
Having more frequent reassessments can lower property taxes for residents, said Orange Mayor Eldridge Hawkins Jr. Orange voted last week to approve funding for a reassessment that would be completed by January. When the city conducted its last revaluation, in 2006, housing prices were near their highest peaks. Now, many homeowners homes are assessed at values much higher than their real worth, costing them much more on their tax bills.
“I think anything we can do as a government to make sure people pay their fair share of taxes and not more, we have to do that,” Hawkins said last week. “This is not a fix-all, but it will help.”
Ten towns in Morris County this year also requested reassessments this year, and each of those municipalities had a reassessment or revaluation between 2005 and 2008 as the housing market soared. In one of those towns, Mendham Borough, tax assessor Scott Holzhauer said the reassessment was to protect the town from a surge in tax appeals.
“The town needs the same money to operate,” he said. “When everyone’s assessments go down, the tax rates go up in a reciprocal fashion. The idea of a reassessment is that after, it will equitably distribute the tax burden across the board.”
If a given town didn’t have a revaluation or reassessment during the housing boom, that town might not be so eager to reassess anytime soon, Holzhauer said.
That’s the case in Union and Middlesex counties, where there have been no reassessment requests in the last three years. In Union County, no town has asked for a reassessment or revaluation since the late 1990s, said a county spokeswoman.
Somerset County is home to about 10 towns that reassess annually, including Warren and Watchung. In Hunterdon County, Flemington and Lambertville have been reassessing annually, and the town of Kingwood opted to do the same last fiscal year.
“I want to keep the values current, and the only way to do that is to do reassessments,” said David Gill, Kingwood tax assessor.