Watch the Watchdogs

Feb 15, 2017

To the Editor:

On multiple occasions, and again in the Jan. 25 issue of The SandPaper, Mr. Art Mooney (“Bringing LEH Together”) has referenced “a drop in ratables of more than $540 million” in Little Egg Harbor Township due to Superstorm Sandy. The actual loss in ratables as a result of that storm based upon a review of approximately 2,000 claims against 4,017 affected properties was $52,984,700 as of March 7, 2013.

Although some did not report their respective storm damage losses until subsequent years and some damage was indeterminate at the time, the only available information was less than 10 times what Mr. Mooney has repeatedly reported. Approximately $53 million in losses is a lot, but it accounted for only approximately a 1.7 percent loss in ratables year over year.

Then, fast forward to 2015, when a township-wide reassessment was put into effect; we experienced approximately a 20 percent drop in ratables from 2014. This was due to the losses in real estate values from approximately 2007 (base year 2005) through 2014 that affected most of the entire nation, not just Little Egg. 2005 was the base year from LEH’s last revaluation. Again, it was reported by Mr. Mooney that we experienced “the largest tax increase in township history.” Not so, Art! The average annual residential tax dollar increase in 2015 was approximately $7. Not per quarter, but for the entire year.

Since the statutory and required purpose of reassessments or revaluations is to put all properties at full market value, there is always a shift of the burden of taxation from some properties that, over time, lose value and are relatively “overassessed” to those that gain value and are relatively “underassessed.” Our ratio of assessed to true value came in at 97.02 percent. That is an “A” based upon those days when alphabetical grades were used.

Normally, this office does not respond to misinformation that occasionally appears in letter opinions or political flyers. But the repetition of this misinformation needed to be addressed. Little Egg Harbor has moved from claiming the fifth-lowest average residential tax bill in Ocean County during 2014 to the third-lowest during 2016. That is still too high, yes. And when you can convince state leaders to develop a better way to fund public education (approximately 53 percent of your tax bill in 2016), New Jersey taxes will maintain their dubious distinction as “highest in the nation.”

In closing, we can appreciate the various “watchdogs” from different areas in Little Egg who are interested in making this a better place to live, but maybe we need some to watch the watchdogs.

Joseph Sorrentino, CTA, RPM

Little Egg Harbor tax assessor

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