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Analysis: North Jersey tax appeals plummet; search your neighborhood

Friday, January 27, 2017   (0 Comments)
Share | 01/27/17

These days, the lines of angry homeowners are long gone from James Tighe’s office in the Teaneck municipal complex. But the township’s tax assessor can remember back five years ago when, on any given day, he and his co-workers were besieged by residents demanding — and usually winning — relief from property tax bills that continued to rise as the value of their homes was falling.

Now, in Teaneck and elsewhere throughout the state, things are pretty much back to normal, as a wave of costly property-tax appeals felt earlier in the decade has mostly receded, both because of the slow but steady rebound in the housing market and steps taken by town officials to make it harder for property owners to win.

An analysis by The Record puts the trend in stark relief. In 2012, some 20,000 homeowners — or one in 18 — in Bergen and Passaic counties filed appeals with their county tax boards and 14,300 were successful. Last year, 5,400 filed — one in 66 — and 3,000 won reductions. The setting for the flood of appeals was the historic real-estate slump accompanying the Great Recession of the late 2000s, when homes typically lost 25 percent to 50 percent of their value and towns were slow to revise their tax rolls to reflect the decline.

Gone also are the days when towns had to issue hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars a year in refunds or credits to taxpayers. With fewer appeals being filed, municipal officials say they are now in a better position to plan finances and preserve services because they no longer face significant annual losses of tax revenue.

As the housing market has improved, especially at the higher end, local assessors also say homeowners feel less need to pare expenses in any way possible, including a tax appeal. At the same time, a majority of towns across the region have updated property assessments — the figures used to calculate actual property taxes — to more accurately reflect current market value, which bolsters their defense against appeals.

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