5-year deal to reassess local properties

NORTH ARLINGTON –

Nobody told the borough to do it – there was no order from the Bergen County Tax Board directing officials to take such an extraordinary step.

Nonetheless, the Borough of North Arlington has decided “to undertake [an] annual Reassessment Program, beginning with the tax year 2017 and continuing through 2021.”

That’s the message conveyed in a Nov. 26 letter to local property owners sent under the signature of Denis McGuire, borough tax assessor.

“The borough has contracted Appraisal Systems Inc. to assist in conducting the Reassessment Program,” wrote McGuire.

Why now, especially when the county tax board lists North Arlington’s real property ratio of “aggregate assessed to aggregate true value” – what percentage the assessment is relative to property’s market value – as 95.75%?

In his letter, McGuire offers this justification:

“Updating assessments each year will ensure that property taxes are accurate, fair and in line with current market trends. There will no longer be steep property tax changes or ‘tax shifts’ that result from long periods of time between revaluations.

“Maintaining tax assessments at 100% of true market value will help to alleviate burdensome tax appeals that are a drain to the borough’s financial stability. Over the last few years, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been refunded in contested tax appeals as a result of outdated assessments.”

McGuire reminds property owners that representatives of Appraisal Systems will be seeking access to homes and/or businesses to make inspections to calculate any reassessments.

Owners are advised to “not allow anyone to enter your home without proper identification.” Authorized representatives will be carrying photo IDs and will be furnished with property record cards maintained by the borough assessor’s office and any recent construction permits issued by the building department.

Owners will be asked to sign the field form used by the representative that serves to document when an interior inspection is made. Owners of multi-family dwellings are asked to advise tenants upon such visits.

Property values for calendar year 2017 will be determined, based on their estimated market value as of Oct. 1, 2016, as mandated by state law.

Property owners will be notified by mail of the proposed assessed values and will have an opportunity to question or contest those values.

For more information about the process, people are invited to contact Appraisal Systems by calling 201-493-8530 or visiting www.asinj.com.

Borough Administrator Steven LoIacono said that Appraisal Systems will be paid about $40,000 for each year of work or a grand total of $200,000.

“This is something new for North Arlington,” LoIacono said, adding that the idea of a “rolling assessment” came out of “discussions between the assessor and the governing body” as a strategy “designed to prevent dramatic swings in property assessments over the next five years” and thereby avoid the pitfalls of the borough having to pay out big tax refunds on appeals.

“We want to make certain that we get the revised property valuations by mid-January,” LoIacono said. “The appraisal firm has a number of guys out there [doing the inspections].”

If there are appeals, the firm will defend its reassessed values on the borough’s behalf before the county tax board.

LoIacono listed Rick Del Guercio as the firm’s contact with the borough. The firm’s website identifies Del Guercio as its president/chief project manager.

North Arlington applied to – and received approval from – the state Division of Taxation to hire the appraisal firm to reassess 20% of the borough’s properties each year over the five-year period, according to Robert Layton, the Bergen County tax administrator.

The so-called rolling assessment is a new pilot program in New Jersey, said former Lyndhurst mayor Richard DiLascio, an attorney who has represented several municipalities in tax appeal cases.

“Property values have been climbing recently so you’re seeing assessments out of line with the market values based on today’s sales,” he said. “We’re actually thinking of doing [a five-year rolling assessment] in Lyndhurst.”

Thirteen Bergen County communities have been in the midst of rolling assessments, Layton said, and of those, Appraisal Systems is involved with 11: Carlstadt, Hasbrouck Heights, Little Ferry, Moonachie, Oradell, Saddle Brook, South Hackensack, Westwood, Hackensack, Woodcliff Lake and North Arlington.

Most communities in Monmouth County are also participating in rolling assessments, Layton said. Appraisal Systems is handling the job for Middletown.

The firm was recently retained by Jersey City to undertake a revaluation of the city’s properties by November 2017.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.