From the Jersey Journal:
A five-letter word is causing heartburn in every neighborhood in Jersey City.
The citywide property revaluation, Jersey City’s first since 1988, is finally underway, with inspectors knocking on doors, homeowners nervous about what their tax bills will be next year and Mayor Steve Fulop urging calm.
Fulop faced a roomful of grim-faced Downtown residents on March 28 to tell them what to expect.
“I know there’s a lot of fear because people assume the worst,” he told them before adding, “It’s going to be disruptive. I don’t want to mince words.”
Downtown property owners are expected to take a big hit since home values there have soared since the city last conducted a reval. But residents everywhere, from Merritt Street down in Greenville to Secaucus Road up in the Heights, say they fear higher property taxes, overassessed homes and a Jersey City that will be unaffordable for many longtime residents.
“This is going to kill me,” said Rosalie Narciso, a 71-year-old retired woman who lives in a Third Street brownstone. “It’s going to absolutely kill me.”
The 1988 reval, which came 17 years after the previous one, produced dramatic shifts in property values — the tax base soared from $800 million to $5.6 billion — followed by steep tax increases Downtown and in the Heights. A citizen group alleged wide disparities in assessments.
The revolt was bad news for then-Mayor Anthony Cucci. He was trounced when he sought re-election in 1989, receiving fewer than half the number of votes of the eventual winner, Gerry McCann. Cucci came in fourth place.
“The reval killed him,” City Clerk Robert Byrne said.
Fulop critics have said his fear of a repeat voter revolt led him to postpone this reval, with new assessments now not scheduled to be public until after the Nov. 7 mayoral race. Fulop has denied this, saying he stopped the reval in 2011 to make sure it is done fairly (last year New Jersey ordered this one to proceed and wrap up by Nov. 1).
“The last time the city did a reval, when I was 11 years old … many people throughout Jersey City lost their homes,” he said during an April 2015 meeting with local activist group Jersey City Together. “If it’s not done fairly the same thing from 1988 will happen.”
Since the last reval was nearly 30 years ago, the average property in Jersey City is assessed at just 23.66 percent of its market value.
The state says revals should be conducted when that figure dips below 80 percent, arguing that local taxes are not distributed fairly if the assessed-to-market-value ratio is so low (taxes are tied to assessment). One resident’s home could be assessed at its 1988 value, their neighbor’s home at its 2017 value.
Critics of the mayor point to his house as an example of unfair taxation.
In 2015 Fulop and his wife bought a four-bedroom house on Ogden Avenue, a leafy street in the Heights overlooking the Manhattan skyline. The sale price was $845,000. Its assessed value is $104,000, just 12 percent of its market value. The Fulops’ annual tax bill is $8,009.