Committee works to avoid a tax hike

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Township has lost hundreds of millions in assessed value

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – A township-wide property reassessment will impact Middle Township’s budget this year, but how remains in question, says Committeeman Tim Donohue.

What is known is that many property assessments decreased, and that Middle lost $550 million in ratables over the past three years, township officials said. Ratables are the taxable properties in the township and an assessment is what the township contends the property is worth. The property tax rate is based an amount per $100 of assessed value. Last year’s township tax rate was 39 cents per $100 of value. Property owners also pay school and county taxes, which are included in their municipal tax bill.

Donohue hopes that the township tax levy would be flat this year.

"I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but that is our challenge," Donohue said at a Township Committee meeting earlier this month. "But that is why we are digging in every nook and cranny to try to find ways to save money without affecting services, without affecting the responsiveness of our government. And obviously, that's a challenge."

The full reassessment came after a compliance plan, which, as approved by the county tax board, focused on the most excessively assessed neighborhoods in the township. In an earlier interview, Cape May County tax administrator George R. Brown III said the goal was to bring property assessments to acceptable market values and comply with state regulations.

Donohue said Middle’s full reassessment was completed using township employees and completed within a year’s time.

The tax assessor’s office handled the work, but Township Assessor Lee Ann Russ did not know how much overtime was put in. She said the reassessment project has not been certified yet.

Township Committee earmarked $85,000 for the project, she said.

"But this was the right thing to do," Donohue said. "It was a fair thing to do for the taxpayers. And how it affects our bottom-line, of course, is going to be a challenge. But it's no challenge that all of us aren't facing ourselves around our kitchen tables. We will commit to living within our means."

Township Committee members have their work cut out for them, with the township losing $327 million in ratables for 2013, $128 million for 2012 and $95 million the year before.

But last year officials managed to whittle about $550,000 from the budget compared to 2011, Donohue said. In 2012, Township Committee adopted a budget that was just over $20 million.

In January, Township Committee adopted an emergency temporary budget, which allows the municipality to operate until the 2013 budget is adopted. That amount totals $439,895 and includes $220,000 for legal services, $147,000 for a group insurance plan, $20,000 for engineering services and $16,000 for audit services.

At the Township Committee meeting Feb. 4, Donohue said that the reassessment letters were mailed to about 11,800 property owners.

Those unhappy with their assessments are able to appeal, Donohue said. For more information about appealing an assessment, call the Cape May County Board of Taxation at 465-1030.

Property tax relief is also available for people 65 and older; they would receive s a $250 reduction, according to Middle’s website.

For information on property tax relief, see www.middletownship.com.


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