From the Record:
North Jersey homeowners seek lower tax assessments (Hat tip Gary)
Watching their property taxes rise as the value of their 82-year-old house dropped, Nora and Pat Sfarra of Teaneck decided to appeal their tax assessment last year. With the help of a tax-appeal company, they were able to get their home’s assessed value reduced from $351,000, to $310,000, knocking about $1,000 off an $8,000-plus annual tax bill.
“I’m satisfied that I got something off,” said Nora Sfarra.
The Sfarras are among the thousands of North Jersey homeowners who have challenged their tax assessments as home values eroded over the past several years. And with the April 2 deadline for filing this year’s tax appeals approaching fast, many homeowners are rushing to get their paperwork in.
The wave of appeals is having an impact on town budgets.
“It’s creating a major problem for communities up and down the state,” said William Dressel, executive director of the state League of Municipalities, which represents towns. “It’s reducing the amount of property taxes going into municipal coffers, which has a direct impact on the towns’ ability to be able to provide adequate services.” The result could be either service cuts or a higher tax rate, he said.
A number of towns have responded to the rise in appeals by conducting town-wide reassessments or revaluations, with the aim of getting valuations in line with actual market values, which makes it harder for homeowners to question their assessments.
And the first thing homeowners need to know is that you can’t appeal your tax bill, just your property’s assessment.
“A lot of people think if they pay too much in taxes, they have an appeal,” said Hackensack lawyer Martin Sharit, who has filed many tax appeals. “But we all pay too much in taxes.”
Teaneck, for example, has a tax ratio of 104 percent — meaning that the town already knows that the properties’ assessments are greater than their actual value. By that formula, a property assessed at $350,000 may really be valued by the town at only about $336,500.