The timing of Little Silver's revaluation, couldn't have been worse.
Not only were the town-wide reappraisals coming on the tail end of a housing slump and a decade after the last revaluation, but the benchmark date used to evaluate properties was set at Oct. 1, just a month before Hurricane Sandy came and changed everything.
"There's no precedence for this," Mayor Robert C. Neff, Jr. told the approximately 75 residents gathered to show their opposition to property appraisals received last month.
The borough hired Realty Appraisal Company to perform a revaluation of all property in the borough after Little Silver was ordered by the Monmouth County Board of Taxation to establish current market value as a basis for their tax assessments.
Under a borough-wide revaluation, homes and businesses are inspected for their comparable assessed worth in an effort to more fairly distribute the tax burden. Local government and school tax levies are comprised of tax points, which are literally every cent a resident pays in property taxes per $100 in assessed value.
While some residents may see their assessments and consequently their tax bills increase under a borough-wide revaluation, the process is intended to correct inequities in the tax base that may develop over time.
Owners of the 2,600 residential properties in the borough received those appraisals at the end of December and many of the 80-odd waterfront property owners, many of whom suffered flood damage from Hurricane Sandy, found that their appraisals had risen significantly.
Neff told the crowd gathered for the Jan. 28 council meeting that borough officials were unable to stop the borough-wide revaluation of all properties.
"It's not in the borough's power to put it on hold," he said. "This is a train that left the station more than a year ago."
A revaluation is a process of comparables in which Little Silver properties are evaluated according to similar properties in their neighborhood. (Learn more about revaluations here.)
Many residents who spoke during the almost three-hour meeting echoed a Point Road resident who argued that there weren't enough comparable sales to use for establishing market values. He said the land of his half-acre waterfront property was appraised for $818,000 during the last revaluation in 2003 and is now valued at $1.45 million and claims it was based on one comparable sale made in the neighborhood in 2011. "You can't base all 80 properties on one sale," he said.
Borough Attorney John O. Bennett III said that residents were concerned that it is too soon to know whether their home market values have been decreased following Sandy. "What is the retail product going to be?" he asked.
Seven Bridges Road resident John Chimento, who's lived in Little Silver almost 40 years, suggested that the borough consider litigation to put off the perceived financial impact of the revaluation "until the dust settles."
"The only person who can overrule a bureaucrat is a judge," he said. "At the end of the day you have an arbiter that takes a much more fair appraisal of the situation."
While that option remains "on the table" but a "last option," Neff said of litigation, "It's hard to say whether it's the right road to go down."
The mayor and council agreed unanimously with Councilman Rick Scott's suggestion to direct the borough attorney to research freezing flood zone properties at their pre-revaluation values and proceed with the rest of the appraisals. Officials agreed to discuss those findings at their Feb. 4 meeting.
When asked by a resident what more they could be doing to reverse the revaluation, Neff told the crowd, "Your presence here tonight is the best thing you could have done.
"You've made your reaction known," the mayor said.