BAYONNE, NJ – Bayonne must do its first citywide tax revaluation in more than 25 years following a decision handed down by the Hudson County Tax Board on Thursday, April 7, a city official said.
The edict followed a hearing that day attended by City Law Director Jay Coffey, City Tax Assessor Joseph Nichols and attorney Peter Cresci, who is requesting the revaluation.
Cresci could not immediately be reached for comment.
In a March 23 letter to the county and state, Cresci said he was seeking the revaluation for several clients. He has named Patrick Desmond of West 4th Street as one of them.
Desmond is one of three individuals who have filed a notification of intention to recall Mayor James Davis. Desmond was aligned with Davis during his mayoral run in 2014, but relations between the two have thawed since Davis was elected.
Desmond chose not to comment on why the revaluation was being sought.
A revaluation is a program undertaken by a municipality to appraise all real estate within the taxing district according to its full and fair value, according to the New Jersey Treasury Department. A revaluation seeks to spread the tax burden equitably within a municipality.
The total cost for all work associated with the Bayonne revaluation could be as much as $1 million, or possibly more, according to Nichols, who said its actual costs could not be determined yet.
Through its decision, the tax board stipulated that the districtwide revaluation for Bayonne must be completed by Nov. 1, 2018, so that it would take effect for the 2019 tax year, beginning in January that year.
The revaluation order must first receive approval from the State Division of Taxation, Nichols said.
“The process going forward will be for the county tax administrator to send a written order to the State Division of Taxation for approval,” Nichols said. “Once approved by the state, the order is sent to the Bayonne city clerk. The city of Bayonne also has 90 days to challenge the order.”
If the city does not challenge the decision, Nichols, as the tax assessor for Bayonne, would have about 60 days to present a revaluation plan to the county.
But to gauge the values of the city’s nearly 14,000 properties, Bayonne will first have to hire a firm to update its tax map. Following that, the revaluation process can begin. Nichols will be required to submit monthly progress reports to the County Board of Taxation about both the tax mapping and the actual revaluation process.
But the tax map update is the first task.
“The existing tax map is seriously out of date, as the city did not have an in-house city engineer for 14 of the last 20 years, and updates for subdivisions, consolidations and condominium conversations were made manually in the assessment records, but never updated in a state-approved tax map,” Nichols said.
Nichols said the city estimates that more than 1,900 – or 14 percent – of Bayonne’s 13,993 property designations do not match up with the existing Bayonne tax map.
Further complicating the tax map update, and therefore the revaluation, is that a number of Bayonne’s properties are industrial and located on the waterfront. Many of those parcels were funded by state grants which are not documented locally.
“This means that mapping and valuation of these parcels will rely on obtaining the original grants from the state of New Jersey, integrating them into the updated map, and reviewing them,” Nichols said. The city also has several underground pipelines, many built the last century or earlier, that are not reflected on the map.
When all the mapping issues have been resolved, the city can begin the revaluation. This will include the inspection and assessing of values to each of Bayonne’s properties.
“This involves analysis of neighborhoods and land values and attempts to measure, inspect and gain access to the interior of each residential, commercial and industrial structure in town,” Nichols said.
Bayonne being “unique” will prove challenging during that process, Nichols said, with the city “having several ‘special use properties’: oil terminal facilities, marine terminals and piers, a cruise port, two power plants, and a golf course built on a former landfill, all of which must be inspected and valued.”
Nichols said there is no way to know the price tag of the revaluation and associated mapping process prior to bidding and contract approvals.
“While I do not know the costs, I expect that it will easily exceed a million dollars and could potentially be several million,” he said. The Bayonne City Council will have to approve any contracts, and the costs could potentially be spread out over several years through bonding.
Nichols said if all approvals are granted for the revaluation that he will be charged with assuring it is “carried out accurately and fairly.”