Piscataway, NJ - In response to a growing number of reports that some Piscataway taxpayers have seen errors of over $100,000 in their property revaluations Democratic Mayoral candidate Bill Irwin and Democratic At-Large Council challengers Ralph Johnson, Laura Leibowitz and Kamuela “Nikki” Tillman have asked the State of New Jersey’s Treasurer and Division of Taxation to pause the Township’s Revaluation Program until a full audit is made of the 2020 revaluations.
“I heard from my running mate, Laura Leibowitz that her property had increased $130,000 in value in one year, and that seemed like it could have been a simple mistake,” said Irwin, who previously served four years as the Township’s Board of Education President. “Then other residents began reporting similar large increases in their assessments on our community Facebook page. I started looking at public tax records and it is clear there is something amiss here. There is no real need to conduct revaluations every year, and we certainly shouldn’t be doing so if the process is flawed and prone to error. Our taxpayers deserve to know what is going on before they hand over their hard earned tax dollars to the Township.”
Most communities revalue their properties every decade or so, to make sure that the tax burden is being fairly distributed among owners. Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler, currently serving his 20th year in office, and his colleagues on the Township Council adopted an annual revaluation program that Irwin and his running mates believe may be improperly charging Piscataway taxpayers. According to the Township’s website, “Piscataway Township operates on a five-year cycle in which on a rotating basis in a particular year properties in one area of the Township undergo in-person inspections. However, all property is revalued each year if not through inspection then based on analysis of the real estate market within the statutory time frame.”
Leibowitz said she and her husband have lived in the same home in the Possumtown section of Piscataway for over fifteen years. They were shocked to open this year’s tax reassessment and discover the value of their house had gone up by $130,000.
“We hadn’t made any improvements to our home in the year, and there was no explanation for why it had gone through the roof like that. Other houses on our street have seen their assessments reduced or unchanged this year. It was obviously an error, and when I called the Assessor’s Office they agreed to correct the mistake and send me a stipulation agreement. While I appreciate their correction, I do not think the burden should be on Piscataway’s homeowners to identify and fix the Township’s mistakes, especially when errors seem to be widespread and quite possibly systemic. We want the State to investigate what is happening here. We want the revaluations halted until there is a full investigation and audit of this year’s revaluation to determine how widespread these errors are, and we want the burden of correcting those errors to fall on the Township, not the homeowners,” Leibowitz said.
The letter, sent to New Jersey’s Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio and Acting Director of the Division of Taxation John Ficara asks for the state to intervene to compel the Township to conduct a full audit of the 2020 revaluations to determine the extent of the errors, to be proactive in notifying homeowners of erroneous assessments, and to require the Township to correct the erroneous assessments without burdening homeowners with the requirement that they file an appeal. It also asks that the methodology by which yearly revaluations are computed is made clear. Finally, it notes that the firm the Township has contracted to conduct the revaluations, Professional Property Appraisers, Inc., does not appear to have not filed any Pay-to-Play documentation with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
“The problems with this year’s revaluation have been caused by the Township, and it is the Township’s responsibility to fix them,” said Leibowitz, a special education teacher and Democratic Committee member representing her neighborhood. “Piscataway residents have so many questions about this and we are trying to get answers for them. We’re on the side of taxpayers here.”
The full text of the letter is available here.