Residents Complain They Are Not "Winning" in Tax Assessments



WEST ORANGE, NJ - Residents upset about their tax assessments dominated much of Tuesday's West Orange Township Council meeting. 
Resident Wendell Simpson of Hillside Avenue addressed the council on the subject of the tax burden on senior and low-income residents caused by the recent revaluation.  In response to the insistence that there was nothing that could be done about these burdens, Simpson offered numerous proposals in a packet that he submitted to the council.  Among his proposals were phase-ins of tax increases, a reduction of interest rates on delinquent property taxes, affordable housing trust fund grant financing, an additional payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) funds.
But Simpson was particularly offended by the assertion made by Mayor Robert Parisi at the previous town council meeting that West Orange was "winning" in its handling of tax appeals.  
"I wasn't uneasy, I was upset with that statement," Simpson declared.  "What is 'winning'?  Is winning when you have these seniors or residents that are losing their homes or they're forced to move because the taxes are too high in the town? I don't see how the town should consider that winning." Simpson called the use of the word "winning" a "Charlie Sheen moment," in reference to the television actor's references to his personal life.

Mayor Parisi defended his language by placing it in the context of budgetary issues, explaining that by saying that West Orange was winning tax appeal cases, it meant that the township was increasingly successful in getting the revaluations correct and ensuring a solid tax base necessary for it to function.
"No one wants to pay taxes," Parisi admitted.  "But the best way to judge whether the [revaluation] was done well is, 'Do values hold up?' Not only in the tax appeal process, but to they hold up in a cursory review?" He apologized for being insensitive but reiterated that the purpose of the tax revaluation was to make the tax burden as fair as possible for West Orange's residents.  He also added that phasing in tax increases over time for some people would fail to make increases fair for others.     
Councilman Sal Anderton noted that money for tax appeals is set aside in the budget, and that paying back more tax appeals would exceed the available amount of funds and place an even greater burden on tax payers.  "So to the extent that the values hold, and to the extent that tax appeals are not successful, we all win," he said.  
Rosary Morelli of Ralph Road had her own complaints about the revaluation, addressing the error that caused a mistake in the assessment of a 5600-square-foot property on Pleasant Valley Way that overvalued it by $2 million.  Morelli recalled how the private company had given presentations to West Orange residents explaining how taxes would go up for some and down for others but wanted to know if there were any presentations explaining the process on how the information would be collected, checked and analyzed.  Both Mayor Parisi and Councilman Joe Krakoviak sought to allay her concerns, noting that while the error had not been caught by computers, it had been still caught in time.
"The administration negotiated an agreement with the vendor to provide more oversight, and the council approved that," he said.  Krakoviak added that the vendor had explained the process in various public meetings that Krakoviak lamented were poorly attended.
Tax collector Joanne Gagliardo took the opportunity at the meeting to announced a tax lien sale to collect delinquent taxes from investors based on a starting interest rate of eighteen percent, which would help prevent the taxes of those who pay to go up any further.          
Clare Silvestri asked the council recalled Mayor Parisi's  community meeting in June with residents of the St. Cloud section of town regarding municipally owned property on Ridgeway Avenue and the support from St. Cloud residents for an arboretum on the property, asking for an update on the issue. Noting that the land had been a former Christian church campus, Parisi said that the township had spent the last several months planning an arboretum with Montclair State University with a framework of a plan taking shape, and was "hopeful" that a more concrete plan can be formulated.   
Nine of the ten resolutions were quickly passed prior to the end of the meeting, with one pulled for future debate. Councilwoman Susan McCartney requested a hold on a resolution that would pay back the Organon pharmaceutical company an escrow fee of $2500 for a Planning Board application regarding their facility at 375 Mount Pleasant Avenue.  But while the property has since been redeveloped and is now a thriving medical office complex, McCartney noted that the state of New Jersey  gave Organon an $850,000 grant to stay in West Orange and employ a certain number of people for fifteen years.  Organon failed to do so. 
"The state claimed that they have no oversight of that money," McCartney said.  "I just think that's wrong."  Council President Patty Spango expressed anger at how Organon left the property in a shambles. 
In light of ongoing contacts with Organon's attorney over the escrow fee, Councilman Anderton supported setting it aside for the time being.
No ordinances were voted on at the meeting.
Also, Fire Department Chief Peter Smeraldo reported to the council that West Orange spent an estimated $1.8 million through fire, police, public works, and EMS services in dealing with Hurricane Irene based on damage assessments.  "As of right now, the federal government can reimburse us for 75 percent of what our total will be, and we will work with FEMA to make a final determination," Smeraldo said.       

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

West Orange

$100 OFF per Week for Summer Camp Now!

July 12, 2018

Guerrero Marital Arts is now offering an 8-week summer camp for summer 2018!

Pick which weeks you want!

Camp Weeks are:

July 16, July 23, July 30, August 6, August 13, August 20, August 27

Includes the following:

Fun (through Sports, Play and Games)
Field Trips (may cost extra)
Life Lessons
Reading Time
Martial Arts
A great place to ...

Bucco Couture Summer Sale on All Custom Suits, Shirts and Casual Wear

NUTLEY, NJ — Save while looking sharp! 20% off all summer wear an extra 10% savings for Military, Veterans and all first responders at Bucco Couture, 187 Franklin Avenue in Nutley, with the launch of some new products such as our tracksuit line, crushed cotton drawstring pants and jeans. 

We also carry Bugatchi and Rober Graham casual wear as well as stretch high V-neck ...

Newark Lures Amazon With $1 Billion Payroll Tax Incentive

July 14, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - Amazon will get a payroll tax break at a cost of $1 billion to the city should the company open its second headquarters in Newark, according to one of two ordinances approved by the Newark City Council council to sweeten the deal for the corporate giant and stand out among other locations vying for Amazon’s so-called HQ2.

“The City Council has brought Newark a ...

Upcoming Events


Mon, July 16, 1:00 PM

Whole Foods Market - West Orange, West Orange

West Orange Emergency Blood Drive - 1st 30 donors ...

Giving Back Health & Wellness


Tue, July 17, 5:00 PM

Caldwell University Alumni Theater, Caldwell

Public Invited to Essex County Opioid Use ...

Health & Wellness

Wed, July 18, 10:00 AM

Cancer Center Resource Room, Belleville

Living Well with Parkinson’s Disease Support ...

Health & Wellness

Public Invited to Essex County Opioid Use Prevention Task Force Meeting

July 15, 2018

CALDWELL, NJ — All Essex County residents, mayors and councils, law enforcement members, school officials, clergy members, civic organizations and more are invited to join in the next Essex County Opioid Use Prevention Task Force meeting on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss how the Essex County communities can join work together to eradicate this epidemic.

The meeting will be held at the ...

Extra Time

It was close to 70 minutes into the match and I had to go to the bathroom.  Badly.

As fans watching the World Cup know too well, bathroom breaks are a serious dilemma, especially for those who don’t have a TV in the loo.  This biological necessity is exasperated by beer, which during World Cup matches also fuels a strong propensity to throw chairs and instigate riots.

'Servant of Two Masters' exudes foolish fun

‘Servant of Two Masters’ makes for foolish, frivolous fun

By Liz Keill

MADISON, NJ –Carlo Goldoni’s “The Servant of Two Masters,” in a rousing translation and adaptation by Bonnie J. Monte, has the outdoor audience at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey laughing and clapping all the way through.

The yearly production, held at the amphitheatre on the ...