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Complete Recovery In Ocean County Will Take 3 Years, Freeholders Say

Revaluations of severely damaged or destroyed properties and adjusting tax base, budgets for 2013 must be a priority, freeholder says

Property owners who suffered significant damage or whose homes or properties were completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy are entitled to have their properties reassessed for tax purposes, Freeholder Deputy Director John C. Bartlett says.

However, many people do not know that. And the ramifications of that are staggering, Bartlett said Wednesday at the Ocean County Board of Freeholders' bimonthly preboard meeting.

The impact will be felt throughout the county, but most acutely in those towns where the damage was the greatest and they will need help, Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari said.

"It’s going to take at least three years to recover (fully)," Vicari said.

The issue of property taxes has been on the minds of many homeowners in the days since Sandy turned lives upside down and washed homes away. Many asked about fourth-quarter property taxes, which came due just two days after Sandy destroyed so much. And while many towns have taken steps to try to mitigate what surely feels like salt in a very raw wound, state law governs the collection of the taxes, town officials have said.

Municipal budgets are made up based on the town's tax base. That figure -- the total assessed value of properties in the town -- is based on the value of the properties as of Oct. 1 of the previous year.

"By current law, the number on books (for each property) as of Oct. 1 is the valuation the assessor and town are required to use" in calculating property taxes, Bartlett said.

Because many people are not aware that they can request a revaluation, there is the potential for a significant number of tax appeals next year, which creates problems for towns trying to create or stick to a budget, Bartlett said, not to mention the anger of those who are billed for property taxes on a house that no longer exists.

The problem, Bartlett said, is that under current state law, only the property owner can request a revaluation.

"The tax assessor is not authorized to do it on his or her own," Bartlett said.

Bartlett said he spoke with Gov. Chris Christie regarding the issue, and said the governor is very aware of the impending problem and is looking for a solution, whether it's through legislation or through an executive order telling tax assessors to conduct revaluations of damaged properties.

"He is going to take the bull by the horns and resolve this issue, Bartlett said. "This is a freight train rolling at us that we can derail."

Long-term, however, the impact of the reduced property values will be significant, especially for the smaller barrier island towns, Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari said.

"It’s going to take at least three years to recover (fully)," Vicari said, that the smaller towns will need help to survive during that time, because of the significant drop in their tax base.

Bartlett said that impact will be felt countywide, because the barrier island towns make up a third of the county's total tax base -- roughly $33 billion of the county's $100 billion base.

"It is incumbent on all of us – municipalities and the county – to delay our (2013) budgeting process until these revaluations are done," Bartlett said.

foggyworld November 29, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I'm an Independent but in this situation the blame in good part lies at the feet of the current President who according to Bob Woodward's recent book and verified by the current federal Director of FEMA, when given a list of moves of money that he believed he legally could make (?), the President who is not a scientist declared we wouldn't have a disaster this year. So he took the premium monies and other funds in FEMA and moved them over to Homeland Security. The FEMA well is dry folks so we who paid into the fund now will be given the wonderful opportunity to BORROW money from them which we must repay with interest. Katrina this is not. Nor is it Florida or the Gulf Oil spill. In my devastated area, this is truly a do-it-yourself-and-with-your-neighbors project which some of us are funding by donating dumpsters and renting equipment and picking up heaven knows what with our very own hands. We do get our once a week garbage can pick up but most of us found our cans had blown away - after the storm. At the moment, nothing much is actually funded in this entire nation: they are juggling balls in the air which we all know can't last forever.
foggyworld November 29, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Those new houses if the legislators ever get around to it will be similar to those used for coastal building in North Carolina and Florida. And their taxes will zoom up. New Jersey has the worst building standards for on-the-water building of any state in the Union. Why? Well there are big builders that make big contributions to those at all levels of government to insure the cost of building a four bathroom mansion is kept to it very lowest. They receive big bucks for those mansions but will never voluntarily build them to hurricane codes. Why are towns around here at this very moment issuing permits for people to patch things up to the old, sloppy standards? The reason is our leaders haven't buckled down and just Xeroxed the North Carolina building codes for starters and make them effective immediately. They could be adjusted later if necessary but it would be one hell of a start. To rebuild to fishing shack standards is to ask for yet another mess. That's why people laugh when we say we are from NJ. We are thought of as stupid folks with an unusually corrupt method of government.
foggyworld November 29, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Tina, I felt the way you do for a few weeks and then decided to use the internet to reach out and ask for help from any and all. My whole neighborhood is devastated and the people are, too. But after two weeks of absolutely no response from anywhere I started pushing. It's hard work but please try because there genuinely are people who want to help but don't know where we are. So for starters, tell us where you are and what your area needs and when it would be best for people to show up to help. And ignore those who are obviously much more interested in their own little worlds and still don't understand what John Donne said in the 1600's: No man is an island. But you get busy and watch the help come at you. But none of the governmental or charitable big time groups are even worth contacting. Patch has a section where you can ask for volunteers of labor and goods. Write one a day until your area is filled with people of good will. They are here. And thank you Patch for keeping the wires open for we who need so badly to just be heard.
Bowie Thelonius November 29, 2012 at 11:56 PM
An unpopular but realistic solution. Houses should NEVER have built so close to the ocean, it doesn't make sense. And BTW, barrier islands should revert back to being actual barriers.
mjmjr December 05, 2012 at 09:22 AM
WHERE WERE THE POLITICIANS IN TOMS RIVER TO HELP THE PEOPLE,NOWHERE TO BE FOUND..VOTE THEM OUT.

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