RED BANK, NJ: The meeting opened on a high note with the council recognizing the Red Bank Middle School Girls’ Basketball, the "Lady Rockets,” for their championship season.

“I want to congratulate our girls on their second straight championship, it was an amazing undefeated regular season through the playoffs.  I’m so proud of what they do, on the court, in the classroom, in the hallways and also as they serve this community,” said Dr. Jared Rummage, Red Bank Borough Superintendent of Schools.

To read a past TAPinto article on the RBM School’s historic year in sports, click HERE.

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And then it hit the fan.

Believing that certain commercial properties are under-assessed and not paying the appropriate amount of property taxes, the council tabled a resolution to appoint the law firm Blau & Blau, “…to pursue affirmative tax appeals against certain commercial properties.”   This is referred to as a “reverse tax appeal.”

The properties being targeted are: 8 East Front Street (The old Kislin’s store), now a commercial building with apartments, The Station Apartments located at 145 Monmouth Street.  The Downtown Investors group which owns properties at 89, 79 and 73 Broad Street.   Also include on the list is a former bank building at 55 Broad known locally as “The Vault,” and the Galleria and the West Side Lofts Apartments.  A carousel of these properties is included in this article.

Downtown Investors principal Jay Herman, a principal with Downtown Investors said, “The tax accessor comes up with an assessment, we pay it, and now the borough is suing us, claiming that the tax accessor didn’t do a good job.”  Referring to the audience, he continued, “If they can do this to the Herman family today, they can do it to anyone of you tomorrow…, it’s the whim of the mayor and council.”   

Samantha Bowers of Philip J. Bowers and Company said that the reverse tax appeal, “Does put a wet blanket on the town for investors, it’s a shame you’re targeting the business community.  You’re going to tax it more?  Instead of helping it, trying to make it thrive, make it better, you’re just going to squeeze it for all its got?”

James Scavone, Executive Director of Red Bank RiverCenter said, “The message that a reverse tax appeal sends to future commercial property owners is staggering.  Often, for large commercial properties, real estate taxes can be their single largest expense.  Who would come to Red Bank when they have no way of knowing what their highest expense is going to be, when the borough can randomly sue them when you all decided that you didn’t charge them enough to begin with?  Once you go down this slippery slope, there seems to be nothing to prevent you from suing every property owner in town.  The effect on residents is going be devastating as they see property values in the downtown rapidly decrease.”   Scavone finalized his thoughts saying that he will be asking his Board of Directors to schedule a town hall meeting to inform the residents of what the effects will be if the reverse tax appeal is implemented.

Ingeborg Perndorfer, owner of two commercial properties and The Language School, said, “I became a citizen a few years ago and one of the reasons I love this country is the underlying fairness, and I’m shocked at this.  I feel that this is tearing the fabric of this community apart.  I thought we were on the way of mending fences between the borough administration and the business community.  This is a direct assault on the business community.  I’d like to know what were the criteria for selecting these properties, who created the criteria, is there any legal basis to why some properties were picked versus others?”    

George Sourlis, a principal of The Galleria, talking about the investment community and the competition in Long Branch and Asbury Park, said, “When they have the perception of what is happening here, why would they come here?  Why would they put their money at risk, not knowing what their expenses are going to be in twenty-four months?  This is a big step backwards.”

In other business the borough council:

  • Tabled a resolution to make appointments to the Red Bank Redevelopment Agency. 
  • Approved the Red Bank RiverCenter’s budget for $538,120.  Click HERE to see the details of the appropriations.
  • Approved sidewalk cafes for the Broad Street restaurants: Baan Khun, Bombay River, Catch 19, and Tino’s on Shrewsbury Avenue.
  • Approved a Distracted Driving Grant in the amount of $5,500 for enforcement of the don’t text and drive law.
  •  Councilman Michael Ballard announced that the borough will be hiring Peter O’Reilly, former Treasurer of Jersey City, as the new Chief Financial Officer.

Mayor Pat Menna read a resolution honoring Robert Colmorgen for serving 50 years in the Red Bank Volunteer Fire Department and honored Frank Woods, Red Bank Fire Inspector for Code Enforcement for outstanding service.  See both their pictures on the carousel.     

Borough resident Dan Riordan brought to light legal points regarding the lack of explanation on the agenda when the council goes into Executive Sessions.  “You have to say when you’re going to release the minutes.  In the past that has not been part of the resolution.  The descriptions are much less than what the courts expect.  So, to say “Pending Litigation,” isn’t enough.  You have to name the litigation, tell us what it is you’re going to be talking about,” said Riordan.

To watch a video of the entire meeting, courtesy of Suzann Viscomi, click HERE.

The next council meeting is scheduled for April 24th, 6:30pm.

These meetings are important. 

They determine how and where your money is being spent, and what the future direction your elected officials are taking the borough.

Come, learn and voice your opinion.

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