Estimated 3rd quarter tax bills going out


Kearny property owners should be getting their third quarter 2015 property tax bills shortly – not that they’ll be happy to get them.

Members of the Town Council voted at a special meeting last Tuesday to authorize sending out only estimated bills after stopping short of introducing an amended municipal budget for this year. The 2014 budget was about $75 million.

Town CFO Shuaib Firozvi said the bills reflected a 3.25% increase in the local tax levy over last year, meaning that for a home assessed at $100,000 and taxed at $10,300, the owner would have to cough up an additional $120 in taxes or a total of $290 when including school and county expenses.

Those calculations also factor in additional state revenues. The town was notified July 21 by the Division of Local Finance that it has been awarded $1.5 million in transitional aid and was permitted to “move forward with appropriate budget amendments and adoption of a budget reflecting same.”

However, Council President and Finance Chairwoman Carol Jean Doyle – who presided at last week’s special session in the absence of vacationing Mayor Alberto Santos – told The Observer that she felt “the prudent thing to do” was to “hold off until the mayor comes back.”

And, she added, it will also be better to have “a full complement of the council back” before considering changes to the budget. Councilwoman Eileen Eckel was absent from last week’s meeting.

But, at the same time, Doyle said it was important to send out the tax bills to pay the town’s employees and vendors and allow the Board of Education to meet its payroll and pay its bills.

“The schools have been very patient with us,” she said.

Had the council gone ahead and introduced an amended budget, it would have taken two weeks before it could hold the required public hearing and adopt it and that would have further delayed collecting badly needed tax revenues, Doyle said.

Firozvi added that the town was within its legal right to send out estimated bills even without the county having certified an official budget. The expectation is that the budget will be “adopted by the end of August,” he said.

Doyle said the municipal budget is being trimmed to get spending in line with continuing increases in fixed costs such as employee medical insurance, trash collections and dumping fees and water fees.

“It just doesn’t end,” she said.

Other than to say that no layoffs are anticipated, Doyle said the finance committee, in consultation with the mayor and council, is working hard to try to maintain all existing municipal services without impacting residents’ “quality of life.”

“With the exodus of so many police and firefighters leaving, we should see some savings but we don’t get to see that until our payouts [for accumulated unused time and pensions] are done,” she said. Not to mention police and fire department overtime costs, she added.

But Kearny property owners aren’t alone in facing higher costs, Doyle said. “I get upset when I hear people tell me they can’t afford the taxes here. Well, neither can they afford it anywhere in New Jersey. I’d like to see Gov. Christie stay here in New Jersey and deal with that.”

Municipal officials should derive some consolation from what town assessor John Peneda characterized as only nominal revenue losses stemming from 91 residential tax appeals filed for the 2015 tax year.

Of those 91 appeals, he said, 40 were successful in getting reduced assessments totaling $335,100 that translated to just $33,630 less in annual taxes.

Peneda said there were 16 appeals filed by the owners of commercial and vacant properties that are still pending. The council recently settled one appeal by Lisbon Developing, the owner of a two-story residential/ commercial property at Elm St. and Midland Ave. that netted the owner a reduction in assessment, from $185,500 to $160,500, and a $2,500 decrease in taxes, he said.

The town is in the process of having properties in south Kearny owned by PSE&G appraised as part of an effort to collect additional state energy receipts.

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