From the Star Ledger:
Three New Jersey municipalities in Union, Hudson and Middlesex counties are under investigation by the state for stalling property reassessments for decades and could be forced to conduct revaluations.
The investigation of Jersey City, Elizabeth and Dunellen is a shot across the bow to municipalities in the three counties the state says have neglected their legal duty to ensure fair property assessments, key in determining the real estate taxes home and business owners owe.
Tax boards in these three counties have “consistently failed to require towns to uniformly and fairly assess properties,” Treasury Department officials said Wednesday.
Over time, properties’ assessed values grow increasingly out of line with their market values, and some owners wind up paying too much, while others pay too little. Jersey City hasn’t reassessed in 27 years, Elizabeth in 39 years and Dunellen in 33 years, according to the state.
“The Division of Taxation is reluctantly taking this action because the Hudson, Middlesex and Union county tax boards have failed to do what they are supposed to do,” Treasury spokesman Joe Perone said. “The state has been more than patient in trying to convince the county tax boards to meet obligations, but they have been lax in enforcement because revaluations are unpopular.”
In a news release, the state also calls out Westfield, South River, East Newark, Harrison, Roselle and Winfield. They are among 32 municipalities that have not reassessed in at least 25 years, Perone said.
This would be the first time in four decades that the division is invoking its authority to force a municipality to reassess its property “because it’s clear that the county tax boards and the three municipalities have no interest in complying with the law,” he said.
“Over the nearly three decades since Jersey City’s last revaluation in 1988, the New Jersey Gold Coast city has seen a substantial redevelopment and increased demand,” he said in a statement. “Despite a booming real estate market that has enriched homeowners, many Jersey City residents continue to pay taxes as if they couldn’t give their homes away. Even worse, the rest of New Jersey has been forced to pick up the tab while city officials have resisted efforts to be held accountable for their own spending.”
According to the state Department of Treasury, the true value of Jersey City properties is $15.6 billion higher than its assessed value. In Dunellen, the market value of property exceeds the assessed value by a factor of four.