Paying for a Mistake

Jun 27, 2018

To the Editor:

Last year at this time I was wondering how my real estate taxes in Ship Bottom would increase. I assumed they would increase but not as much as it turned out. Let me explain.

I believe it was in the spring of 2017 that I received the new assessment. I’ll round off the numbers to keep it easier for me. My previous assessment was approximately $460,000 and it went up to $555,000. I said to myself, “That’s good, I think.” 

But without knowing the tax rate (which was $1.107 per $100 or evaluation), I wasn’t sure how much my actual taxes would go up from the 2016-2017 amount of $5,092. Last spring I repeatedly asked for the new tax rate but was told that it had yet to be set.

When I was finally told that the new rate had been set at $.991, I did the math and discovered that my new tax liability would be $5,500. That resulted in an 8 percent increase. With all the new construction in the borough, I thought the overall increase in the ratables would lead to a small increase in my taxes, not 8 percent.

Early last fall I went into the tax office to discuss my concern. I was told that a mistake had been made with my assessed value. It should have been $516,000, not $555,000. If the correct amount of $516,000 had been used, my taxes would have only increased to $5,114, up $22, a less than 1 percent increase. That made more sense to me.

With this overcharge, I naturally asked about an adjustment in my current tax rate. I was told that it couldn’t happen but I’d receive an appropriate credit on my 2018-19 tax bill. Upon my recent visit to the tax office, I was told that I would only receive a credit for the first and second quarters of 2018 and no credit for the third and fourth quarters of 2017. 

The reason given was that I had failed to appeal my assessed value of $555,000 when I was given that info back in the spring of 2017. As I told the tax assessor, I had no reason to appeal that number until I knew what the rate and actually tax liability was. Once those numbers were clear to me, I went to the tax office and was told they had made a mistake. Why should I have to appeal a number that was admittedly wrong, a mistake that the borough made?

I was told that my new tax levy for 2018-19 would be based on the correct assessment of $516,000 but at the same time I would only be receiving half of what I believe should be a full credit of approximately $400 on my 2018-19 tax bill for the 2017-18 tax assessment error. That does not seem fair to me.

Finally, let me be clear. The tax assessor in the borough office has been nothing but professional and is a gentleman. My problem is with the implementation of a policy that seems patently unfair.

Mike Kistner

Ship Bottom



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