Fadden, Peters and Short Respond to Mayor Wilsusen: Facts Matter

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The Fadden, Peters & Short campaign for town council would like to respond to the Mayor’s recent statement about the town’s tax assessment to clear the air. We will focus on the core issue to which he was responding, which was our statement thanking him for repealing the rolling tax assessment.

Although the Mayor has interpreted the issue as one of usurping credit, this is not about who scored a political victory in our town in moving away from the rolling annual tax assessment. The policy wasn’t a good choice for our town, and it’s an issue we have been discussing throughout the campaign. We helped spread awareness and touched on this issue more publicly in our campaign video released on August 15. The town’s residents were already questioning the policy at the time when the mayor announced the policy reversal. 

The court decision the Mayor cited, Pella Realty, LLC. Vs. The City of Paterson, found that Paterson was ineligible for the Annual Assessment program, but the case also found primarily that “(i) an Annual Reassessment Program under N.J.A.C. 18:12A-1.14(i) is not a complete revaluation or complete reassessment of all real property in a taxing district.” The case was settled in February and hearings will be held on the quality of the plan. Our campaign video was released in August. The mayor’s policy repeal was announced in his Fall 2020 bulletin. If not for the decision and discussion, would the council have continued this system? 

Where it concerns the school funding formula and relationship to local taxes we referenced, part of the calculation for state aid comes from determining the “Local Cost Share.” This is where property values and local residents’ incomes become relevant to the school funding formula and reconfiguration bill S2 that Assemblyman Webber and Assemblywoman DeCroce voted in favor of in early 2018. In short, the higher the amount it appears local taxing authorities can raise for school funding, the less the state assumes it needs to provide in aid.

If our homes are increasing in value on paper every year due to a rolling tax assessment, while those in many other municipalities are not, it appears that Jefferson has a larger base to tax from and therefore appears that our town requires less state aid for schools. Our home values should not be increasing every year in the local tax formula. The majority of municipalities in our area hold proper evaluations every 5-10 years. Normally, your home value would only increase if you made improvements. This method allows for more tax revenue without increasing the rate. When was the last time an assessor asked to enter your home to conduct a proper assessment? 

It is argued that the rolling assessment policy has been more cost-effective for the town. But it certainly has not been for Jefferson’s residents who have had to pay more out of pocket every year.  Further, the mayor criticized our campaign for not coordinating with his administration on evaluating these matters; however, there are many municipalities in New Jersey from which information can be compared for reference, and several had contrasting experiences to contribute toward determining whether or not a rolling tax assessment is a fair and just policy. Finally, it does not make much sense for candidates challenging decades of single-party rule from across the aisle to coordinate messaging with the incumbents and opposing party.

Regardless of who takes credit for the change, we are grateful that Jefferson is moving away from the rolling tax assessment policy, as previously stated. We will continue advocating for better policies and more local engagement and discussion on issues that affect us all.

Note: In our review of this subject we found that the Tax Collector had post an 10 Q&A on the subject which help explains the process to the tax payer. Read Here

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