New Jersey Tax Appeals: Ocean County Update

Thumbnail image for Sandy Rolllercoaster.jpgOn October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy brought storm surges in excess of 9 feet. This was bad news for Ocean County, in which 29 of 33 municipalities border the ocean. Our office previously reported on statutory relief available to owners of properties that sustained damage during the hurricane. While the 2013 relief will be limited to loss of value to structures and not loss of value to land, we are surprised by the number of taxpayers in Ocean County whose assessments still do not accurately reflect the diminution of value sustained by the properties.

Some of the more severely affected towns in Ocean County have conducted revaluations or re-assessments this year in order to re-examine the properties and fairly determine their new true values. The towns of Plumsted, Stafford, Manchester, Seaside Heights, Pine Beach, Point Pleasant Beach and Toms River have all been designated for re-assessments this year. While the filing deadline for New Jersey tax appeals is generally April 1, towns in which a revaluation or re-assessment has taken place are usually assigned a tax appeal filing deadline of May 1. All of the aforementioned towns will observe a May 1 filing deadline, except for Point Pleasant Beach and Toms River, in which the deadline has been extended to June 1.

The municipal-wide revaluations of storm affected towns presents two major logistical problems. First, for towns in which all or most properties (line items) have been substantially affected, the lowering of all assessments will provide little relief to taxpayers, who will most likely be forced to begin paying a higher tax rate in order to ensure that the municipal budgets are maintained, without the need for bonding. Second, for towns in which only a few line items were affected, the lowering of assessments of the coastal properties will result in a higher tax rate for all residents, especially the residents of the lower priced inland properties. Very often, these are the residents who can least afford to pay a higher tax rate.

According to one estimate, at least 13,000 storm damaged Ocean County properties will have their assessed value reduced by a total of $4.6 billion. In order to avoid the inevitable result of a higher tax rate for all New Jersey residents, towns have begun seeking State and Federal relief to make up the budget shortfalls. However, if your property has been affected by Hurricane Sandy, and your assessment was not sufficiently reduced to account for the amount of damage sustained, please contact our office for a consultation. We will accept new Toms River and Point Pleasant Beach appeals until May 16. For the remainder of re-assessed towns, we will accept new appeals until April 19.