NEWARK, NJ - The head of the law firm working on reverse tax appeals on a host of Newark properties defended its process before the City Council on Monday after several council members took issue with how the city determined those owners were not paying enough.
Chuck Blau, who represents the Blau and Blau law firm based in Springfield, said his work defending the city’s appeals may be determined on an array of factors, including his background as a real estate appraiser.
Blau said property values in surrounding municipalities, including Elizabeth, could also help defend the city's notion that certain commercial properties in Newark are paying too little in taxes.
The council approved a measure earlier this month that would authorize the reverse tax appeals process to move forward. Despite the ordinance being passed, Councilman Anibal Ramos asked the administration to have a member of the Blau and Blau law firm come before the council and explain how the city determined which tax appeals to reverse.
Among the issues was that the council had not authorized the contract the administration had with the law firm, Ramos said over several meetings. He also took issue with the majority of properties targeted were located in the North and East wards.
Ramos said he would not comment on the presentation Blau gave before the council on Monday because he expects property owners to file lawsuits over the matter.
Council Member-At-Large Luis Quintana, who like Ramos abstained from voting on the bill before the council, said he expected the same.
Quintana said he was not satisfied with Blau’s explanation, which he said should have come much earlier in the process.
“No one had ever given us a portfolio, who they are, what they do,” Quintana said. “It’s very confusing.”
Quintana also reiterated the notion of questioning why the firm was opting to do this work now when the city is two years away from conducting citywide reevaluation.
Blau said conducting reevaluations each year benefits the city because otherwise, the city would lose money it may be owed in any given tax year.
Despite the administration telling the council that the firm’s contract was below the monetary threshold that requires council approval, Ramos said it still should have been up to the council to being them on.
“Blau and Blau never had authorization to do this work,” Ramos said.