Westfield Taxpayers Could Pay $1-2M for Property Assessments

The NJ Division of Taxation said it plans investigate several towns, including Westfield, to determine whether to order a revaluation of the properties within their boundaries. Credits: Jackie Lieberman

WESTFIELD, NJ — The New Jersey Division of Taxation plans investigate several towns, including Westfield, to determine whether to order a revaluation of the properties within their boundaries, according to a recent announcement by the Department of the Treasury.

Already Jersey City, Dunellen and Elizabeth have gotten letters informing them that the department will conduct an investigation in those municipalities.

Westfield Town Administrator Jim Gildea estimated that, if the town of Westfield is required to re-evaluate the properties within its border, the cost to the town would be more than $1 million, “Probably in the vicinity of $1 to $2 million,” and would take about two years to complete.

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“It’s a pretty long and costly process,” Gildea said.

What’s more, Westfield taxpayers could see more of their dollars headed toward the county of Union’s coffers if their properties are found to be worth more than they’re currently assessed for. Westfield already has the highest property values in the county, Gildea said.

Westfield hasn’t conducted a re-evaluation of its properties since 1981, with a re-assessment of that re-evaluation in 1986, according to Gildea. That’s partly because the county has not ordered a re-evaluation in Westfield in all that time.

Gildea also noted that every single town in Union County has a director’s ratio below 60 percent (the average ratio of assessed value compared with true value). According to Dennis Shilling, acting director of the Division of Taxation, which is part of the Department of the Treasury, “A director’s ratio of 85 percent or lower generally denotes noncompliance.”

hat means that every municipality in Union County falls into this category.

Without an order from the county, Gildea said that the town is not required conduct a re-assessment, but the council still considers the possibility every year.

“Re-evaluations are very expensive and time consuming and have to be done at the right time,” Gildea said. For example, in recent years there were an unusually high number of tax appeals taking place, which made it a difficult time to start a re-assessment.

The council also has not felt that a re-assessment was necessary, he said. When they looked at the co-efficient of deviation, or how close to the current ratio a property sells for versus its current assessment, Westfield’s co-efficient of deviation has been hovering at or below 15 percent, Gildea explained. Generally, a co-efficient of deviation of 15 percent or less is considered acceptable, he said.

At this point, the only word that the town of Westfield has received on the matter is in the form of a press release that New Jersey Division of Taxation sent out last month. It is unknown when the town will be investigated or if that investigation will lead to a re-assessment.

“We’re more than happy, when and if we get a letter from the state, to talk to them about it and comply,” Gildea said. 

Editor’s note: This story first ran in December, 2015.

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