VERNON TOWNSHIP, NJ -  On Thursday night, the Vernon Taxpayer Association congregated at the George Inn in McAfee to hear Tom Makoujy speak about property value assessments and tax appeals, over coffee and light refreshments.

Tax appeals have become a hot topic due to the decline in the economy, particularly since the last five years have been some of the worst for property value assessment, Makoujy said.

"The term ‘tax appeal’ is actually a misnomer. We don’t appeal your taxes. We appeal your assessments”, said Makoujy, a state certified residential real estate appraiser who has worked on tax appeals in Sussex county for the past 28 years.

Sign Up for E-News

 “As some of you are probably aware, assessments, by statute, are supposed to be based on market value,” he continued. “Market values change from year to year.”

 Makoujy preceded by speaking to the group about the reasons tax assessments will not go down until the community market is re-evaluated. Vernon had their last evaluation not too long ago.

The core lesson of the meeting was to help residents understand what made them eligible for a tax appeal. The method behind finding out whether or not a property is eligible for a tax appeal is finding out what the average assessment percentage is for your townm based on the current market value, and then seeing if it falls within 15 percent of the figure, either above it or below it. If the property does fall into the bracket, it will most likely not be considered for appeal.

Residents who had questions were asked to write them down on note cards, so that they were read to the group aloud, and answered accordingly. Many residents had questions regarding what did affect the market value of their homes.

One of the note cards prompted this question:

"I live on a private road and the town does not service our road at all. We pay for snow removal as the town will not take on the road. Is that a reason for tax appeal?"

 Makoujy redirected the question back to the attendees and guided them to the correct answer. He explained that many things such as living next to a busy road, high tension wires or living on private roads can cause your assessment to go down, however, it can and will only be counted as evidence if your assessment figure falls out of the 15 percent variance.

 Lynn VanGorder of Highland Lakes, thought the meeting was ‘very informative’ and was interested to learn about what tax appeals were all about.

Another attendee, Eva Ferlauto of Highland Lakes, came with a question and some documents to share. She had a letter she had received in the mail stating she was over-assessed by $1,400, and that a company could help her for a monetary fee. She thought it might be a scam. Makoujy pointed out that the letter was most likely from an attorney, and not from an official appraiser. He recommended waiting for the green postcard in the mail that will come sometime in January if you are over-appraised.

Sally Rinker, the President of the Vernon Taxpayers Association, spoke well of the meeting and its turnout.

“The informational seminar we had tonight was one of those things that we as an organization feel are very appropriate for our community and the people that live here. This particular issue is on the forefront of everyone’s minds, the affordability of their taxes, and there’s a lot to be learned in listening to a professional. We were very glad to have him tonight.”

The filing deadline for the ‘Petition of Appeal’ is April 1, although the date is not necessarily set in stone, as a few different factors can allow for submission adjustments. Makoujy suggests calling to file when you receive a postcard in the mail about your assessment around January, as well as having all of those who accept your submitted documents to stamp, initial and date the papers.

The VTA (Vernon Taxpayers Association) usually meets the first and third Thursdays of every month at the George Inn at 7:30 p.m.


Follow The Alternative Press of Sussex County for Sussex County News, as well as The Alternative Press of Sussex County's Facebook Page, for news, and other information.