New Galloway tax bills reflect rate increase of 73.6 cents

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GALLOWAY– When residents opened their mailboxes last week, they got an unwanted surprise in their tax bills – a 30 percent increase in their tax rate.

Township Manager Susan Jacobucci and Mayor Don Purdy explained to The Current on Thursday, July 31, the various reasons for it, but mostly they said, the overall decline in township property values is to blame.

In 2013 the total assessed value of Galloway real estate was $3,529,160,687, according to Purdy.

Following a surge of tax appeals and a revaluation, the assessed value of real property in Galloway declined to $2,713,409,772 in 2014, a drop of more than 23 percent.
Of that $815 million decline, $685 million was residential property.
“That means that we have lost that much of our taxable base. A lot of it is because of the revaluation, Atlantic City and the economy. I wish we never had to do a revaluation,” Purdy said.
The township has to make up that difference.

“The problem is due to all of the tax appeals that we had, everyone was not paying equal,” Purdy said. 

Purdy noted that there were 1,800 appeals filed in 2012 and 3,000 filed in 2013.
The new tax rate for 2014 is $2.94 per $100 of assessed value, up from $2.25 per $100 last year.
Even if there had been no change in what the local school district, township and the county needed to fund operations, the rate increase would have amounted to 66.3 cents per $100 of value. Accounting for budget increases, it rose by 73.6 cents, he said.
Although residents have a grace period until Aug. 20 to pay their tax bills, there was still a steady stream of taxpayers at the Municipal Complex Friday, Aug. 1 – the official due date – with tax bills in hand ready to pay their bills.
Cars flowed into the Jimmie Leeds Road parking lot beginning around 9:30 a.m.
Phyllis Williams, who has lived in the South Egg Harbor section of Galloway for more than 30 years, stepped out of her car and made her way to the tax office. She was not pleased she is paying more.
“I think it went up a few hundred dollars. I never did add it up. I was so disgusted,” said Williams, 74, a resident of Cleveland Avenue. “I just feel that they should put the taxes down. I am a widow and have six children.
“I am a senior on a fixed income,” she continued. “I have lived here more than 30 years. I think for a certain age the taxes shouldn’t go up. The school taxes are off the wall. I paid for six children to go through the schools. I paid in all of these years. It is just a struggle.”
Joseph DiGuglielmo, 51, of Terry Lane in the Pomona section of Galloway, has lived in the township for 19 years. The Atlantic City Expressway mechanic just paid off his home and he is hoping to start saving so he and his wife Margie can one day enjoy retirement. But with his taxes increased by $1,000 a year, socking away money doesn’t seem as easy.
His taxes are $5,400 a year, up from $4,400 last year. He said he didn’t make any improvements to his home.
“I went up $1,000 for a modest home,” DiGuglielmo said. “You don’t mind seeing a couple of hundred dollars, but $1,000. That is too much.”
DiGuglielmo also said the township does not provide enough services; and the ones the township does provide, the residents pay for and then some.
“What are we paying for?” DiGuglielmo asked. “It’s kind of unfair for the amount of services we get.”
DiGuglielmo, who is originally from Hammonton, said he never put any children through the Galloway’s schools, but his wife Margie’s three children did attend township schools.
“Look at my bill,” he said, pointing at one glaring number. “I am paying $3,319 for school taxes. I’m all about kids, but these school taxes are high. If I retire around 63, I will still need money for car insurance and certain things my wife and I will want to enjoy. Right now planning for retirement is becoming more and more difficult. I believe when you reach a certain age you should be done paying school taxes.”
DiGuglielmo plans on appealing his tax increase. But he has doubts that it will make a difference.
Purdy said he is also concerned, adding that he has noticed too many disparities in the numbers. He wants to make sure that homeowners are paying what they should – not too much.
He added that many of the business owners are also facing tax increases.
“We need more commercial development. I push for that. I have the tax office looking at the numbers because most went up.”
Purdy, whose taxes went up on his businesses and his home by thousands, said while some people were paying more than their fair share for years, others appealed and were paying less than they should have, and some homeowners didn’t do tax appeals, yet their taxes went up.
Even when assessments declined, there was no guarantee that taxes owed would too.
Purdy said for example, if a property assessment went down from $100,000 to $70,000, the homeowner would not get a tax increase on the municipal side, but if it went down 10 percent to $90,000, then there would have been an increase in taxes.
Officials said with the new tax bills, taxes are up for 7,690 properties and down for 9,972. However, property values, due to the reassessment, went down for 16,760 properties and went up for only 743 properties.
“I am asking the town manager to double check the home values and the numbers because something doesn’t seem right,” Purdy said. “I will bring this up at the council meeting (Aug. 19) because I want to waive the penalties and interest for home owners who are late on their taxes.”
The mayor noted that 60 percent of the Galloway tax bill is for school taxes. While the township portion of the tax rate went up by approximately 20 cents, the school portion went up 47 cents and the county went up 6 cents.
When it comes to the schools, township officials said they have no control.
“People have to understand we (the governing body) pay taxes, too, and we got crushed, too,” the mayor said. “People need to be involved, especially with our schools now. The school taxes are out of my control.”
Although Purdy and Jacobucci would like to say there are areas that can be streamlined in the budget, they also say the township’s budget is “bare bones” with a depleted police force, down to 51 officers from 78, and limited services provided for the residents.
“We understand that people are upset, but from a budget standpoint there is nothing more we can cut,” Jacobucci said. “Even if we cut off every service except police, we couldn’t keep taxes where they were last year.”

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