From the Daily Record:
The value of all taxable property in Morris County dropped $1.3 billion in the past year, after growing for most years in the past decade.
The county’s total value still is almost $102 billion but the 1.2 percent drop — which mirrors declining real estate values nationwide — means that local governments can no longer rely on an expanding ratable base to help fund budgets. Some are already cutting personnel and services.
The property value decline has been fueling tax appeals in some towns and meanwhile foreclosure actions continue to increase, with so many filed so far this year that Morris County’s hearing schedule for them already stretches into December.
For most of the 2000s, Morris County’s property values grew, spurred by job growth and a healthy housing market. Even after 2008, when Wall Street collapsed and the national economy soured, Morris County’s property values grew, adding a shade more than $1 billion in 2008 and about $500 million in 2009.
But now 30 of the county’s 39 towns have recorded drops in their 2010 net valuations — a measure of the value of all taxable property in a municipality.
New ratables are scarce as less land is available for new development: some has been preserved as open space and farmland and the state has implemented tighter rules about water use, septic systems, sewers, and building in watershed lands. In 2000, 3,163 building permits were approved. By 2007, the number had dropped to 908. In the first four months of 2010, Morris has seen 119 permit filings, the New Jersey Builders Association reported. If that rate continues for the year, there would be fewer that 500 permits sought for the year.
As home values sank the number of tax appeals jumped, from 800 in 2004 to 3,180 this year.
And, the number of home foreclosures increased, from 298 in 2004 to 468 in 2008, according to the county sheriff’s office records. In six months this year, the number of foreclosures hit 523, up 111 percent over the same period in 2009. The sheriff’s office schedule of foreclosure sales already reaches into December.