From the Courier News:
The township will set aside at least a half million dollars to pay for tax appeals in 2011 as property owners continue to contest their assessments amid a depressed real-estate market.
Mayor Brian Wahler said 99 percent of the cases involve corporate tax appeals. “There’s still a heavy vacancy rate,” Wahler said. “Until owners are able to attract tenants, then it’s unlikely to subside.”
Wahler said the municipality is working to draw new business but has an abundance of commercial sites that are unfilled or partially filled. When vacancies occur, the landlord is not getting the potential value out of a building and can legally appeal his taxes, Wahler said.
“There’s market conditions at play here. Some of the facilities we have in town are considered obsolete by today’s standards. Businesses need to retrofit. Some did demolitions; they’ll build to suit. The days of building (an office or similar structure) and hoping you’ll fill it are over.”
Wahler said the town’s budget probably can withstand the amount of tax appeals it expects this year, adding that no layoffs are expected at this point. “If state aid stays the same as it was in 2010, we should be OK,” he said.
Piscataway’s situation is not unique.
Towns across New Jersey, especially those with ample office space and a lack of tenants, should anticipate more tax appeals in the foreseeable future, said Matthew Wenk, a staff attorney with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. “There (have been) some encouraging indications about the economy. If it continues to pick up, you might see it (the appeals) drop off a little.”
But towns should continue to set aside money for payouts, he added. “The best advice is to look at neighboring municipalities, search state for similar cases. Stay in touch with their municipal attorney. He or she can advise on what (a town) should probably be budgeting for,” Wenk said.