A bi-partisan effort to explain the controversial pilot program for assessing Monmouth County properties, the Assessment Demonstration Program, is generating support for the program as one of the eight municipalities that opted out of the program has reenlisted and other towns are choosing to stay with the program that is reducing the amount of property tax appeals filed.
The biggest problem the program has faced is confusion between the alleged improprieties and conflicts of interests in the implementation of the program exposed by an Asbury Park Press series which instigated an investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the benefits and weaknesses of the program itself.
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, a Republican and Cliff Moore, a Democrat and President of the County Tax Board have been meeting with mayors and councils throughout Monmouth County to explain the program and the adjustments that have been made since its implementation in 2013.
On Monday, Shrewsbury Borough, one of eight towns that had previously opted out of the program, decided that the program is a benefit to its residents and rejoined. Shrewsbury Mayor Don Burden told APP that the program had not been thoroughly explained when it was rolled out and that upon studying the program the governing body saw the benefit of annual assessments.
O’Scanlon and Moore praised Shrewsbury’s decision.
“Shrewsbury’s officials are to be commended for studying the program and the data behind it. Their conclusion was sound: the pilot program is far superior to the alternative, outdated methods of assessing properties in a given municipality. I have been working with local municipal officials from dozens of Monmouth County municipalities to listen to concerns and ultimately have these governing bodies remain in the pilot program. Now we see that towns who have opted out are ultimately deciding that the pilot program, while not without flaws, is vastly superior to the prior systems that have been in place. Tax Commissioner Cliff Moore is to be commended for his tireless efforts to make himself available to local elected officials and the public. I have heard nothing but praise for Cliff in the many municipalities I speak to. I hope more localities do their homework and follow the lead of Shrewsbury Borough.” O’Scanlon said.
“It’s been a pleasure speaking with municipal officials throughout the County about the unquestioned benefits of this program. I take my hat off to the local officials who spend so much time diving into the details of this program and rejecting the misinformation. Shrewsbury Borough’s Mayor and Council were wonderful to deal with, asked tough questions and dealt with the answers in a fair, open-minded way that led them to the right decision” said Moore.
Changes have been made to the pilot program which include a modified version of the “freeze act” to address winning tax appeals, a 3 year sampling to avoid annual volatility, and an enhanced County Tax Board review process that validates that the Preliminary Tax Lists submitted by the municipalities are either accurately equalized to market value or are submitted to market value.
“This is good government at work”, said O’Scanlon, “we listened to our local officials and residents as any issues arose with this program and devised and implemented fixes. Then we went out and communicated with every open-minded appointed and elected official who would sit down with us. Virtually everyone who took the time to learn the details of the program – and of the modifications we’ve made – has responded positively. I believe every municipality we met with – that had at some point expressed interest in opting out of the program – has reconsidered and decided to remain in the program. Those inclined to stay in only strengthened their enthusiasm. I commend our local officials, members of the county tax board and staff for the many, many hours invested. It was time well spent on a program that will give our taxpayers a more fair, transparent and less expensive tax assessment methodology.”
“I was a complete skeptic when the program was rolled out. As it turns out, there are less appeals, more transparency, and the ten year budget spike has been flattened. It shouldn’t be a situation where the baby is thrown out with the bathwater” said Colts Neck Committeeman Michael Fitzgerald.
“Our town spent a lot of time researching our options, and whether we should choose to opt-out of the program. The goal from the beginning was to do the right thing for all of our residents, and it is clear that the right thing for Aberdeen Township is to remain in this pilot program” said Aberdeen Mayor Fred Tagliarini.
“The new program was designed to – and now does – bring fundamental fairness to the apportionment of the property tax burden. I’d like to thank Assemblyman O’Scanlon for taking the time and doing the work to dispel the legion of misperceptions out there, and to tweak where tweaking was needed” said Little Silver Mayor Bob Neff.