By Ron Leir
An unhealthy combination of Superstorm Sandy and real estate tax appeals and settlements dealt Kearny’s total valuation a bad blow in 2013, reports John Peneda, the town’s tax assessor.
But Peneda predicts that with the beginning of new construction, the town should rebound somewhat in 2014.
Between 2013 and this year, according to Peneda’s calculations, Kearny’s tax ratables dropped, from $1,057,904,400 to $1,050,881,600, a roughly $7 million decline, which, in turn, translated to a $685,000 loss in tax revenues – enough to pay the salaries of 20 new police officers.
A good chunk of the hit taken by the town can be attributed to the loss in income absorbed last year by RTL Services at Kearny Point Industrial Park, opposite Hudson County Jail, in South Kearny, where several of the company’s tenants vacated flooded warehouses in the aftermath of Sandy.
Tenants would be unable to remain without securing flood insurance, the cost of which – given the low-lying condition of their rented facilities – would be prohibitive, according to Peneda.
Following a tax settlement with the company, the town reduced the assessments on two warehouse buildings by a total of $5.5 million, causing a drop of $530,505 in yearly taxes.
Now, after the town’s governing body has put in motion a proposal by RTL to designate those properties as areas in need of redevelopment, the company has begun to demolish them in favor of erecting new structures that will be raised above the flood zone so that new tenants can be secured, Peneda said.
Similarly, the owners of Jeryl Industrial Park off the Belleville Turnpike and the town came to an agreement on a lower assessment on the grounds that their business income has plummeted because they’ve had few tenants occupying their crumbling buildings. With the reduced assessment, the town is netting about $258,000 less in taxes on the property, Peneda said.
The town’s construction enforcement office had waged a running battle with the site’s prior owners, having denied certificates of occupancy to prospective tenants, citing code violations.
But nw, the new management is in the process of ripping down most of the buildings on the site and has pledged to build a new, state-of- the-art industrial park and to fix the interior, pothole-filled roadway that winds through the sprawling site between the Pike and Schuyler Ave.
Last year’s tax slump notwithstanding, Peneda sees cause for hope. “Although the short-term looks tough,” he said, “the horizon looks bright,” given future tax revenues that he sees coming from several new two-family homes being built around town, the mixed-used development at Schuyler and Bergen Aves. with an Investors Bank already built and a multi-family apartment complex now being constructed by Carlstadt developer Ed Russo, the newly opened Wawa and the Walmart expansion, both on Harrison Ave., and a new 7-eleven at the Pike and Schuyler.
And the town is keeping its fingers crossed that, soon, the Hudson County Improvement Authority, Kearny and a private owner can successfully market the Koppers Koke meadows site in South Kearny to a private sector developer for additional tax revenue to the town.