Houghtaling & Downey Bill to Provide Property Tax Relief to Disaster Victims Now Law

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(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey aimed at closing a loop hole in Monmouth County's Assessment Demonstration Program, sponsoring in the wake of a five-alarm fire in Ocean Grove back in March, was signed into law on Monday.

The law (A-4673) changes the dates concerning the assessment of buildings or structures following their material depreciation, given the fact that Monmouth County, where the fire was located, operates under a Real Property Assessment Demonstration Program, which is different than many other parts of the state.

One of the many changes within Monmouth County’s program is the revision of the taxation calendar. In the “old calendar” the assessor submitted the tax list in January, budgets and tax rates were finalized in March and taxpayers appealed their assessments in April. When a taxpayer received a reduction in the assessment the town would have a shortfall in collections. Where the old system had the assessments submitted for budgetary purposes on January 10th, within Monmouth the final assessments are not submitted until May 5th. By placing the budgetary process after the annual appeal process Monmouth County towns avoid an under collection as a result of appeal assessment reductions. Typically, when there is a shortfall in collections the town must either use emergency bonding (with interest) or existing fund balances.

This legislation permits the Assessor to revise the Assessment to any property that has “materially changed” without causing an under collection for the municipality.

“Since Monmouth County currently operates under a different system, this bill would extend the date that an assessment based on damage can occur so that those who were devastated by last week’s fire can have their property reassessed to reflect the damage, thereby lowering their taxes while they deal with the recovery,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “Hopefully, this will provide a measure of relief in the aftermath of this tragedy while everyone works to rebuild.”

“Monmouth County’s unique demonstration assessment program is designed to help property owners, but in this particular instance, the deadlines for assessment would not aid the victims of the Ocean Grove fire,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “The process of rebuilding can often be long and arduous, not to mention stressful, so we need to help property owners in any way we can. Lowering their assessment to reflect their real-time value is a start.”

Under previous law, when any real property has been destroyed, consumed by fire, demolished, or altered in such a way that its value has materially depreciated, (whether intentionally or by the action of storm, fire, cyclone, tornado, or earthquake, or other casualty) and the depreciation of value occurred after October first in any tax year and before January first of the following tax year, the assessor shall determine the value of the property as of January first of the tax year, upon notice of that material depreciation given to him by the property owner before January tenth of the tax year and after examination and inquiry of the real property.

Taking this into account, the new law extends the deadline for notification of the depreciation of value to May in the case of property located in a county participating in the real property assessment demonstration program. 

Therefore, when such a depreciation of value occurs after October first in any tax year and before May first of the following tax year, the assessor shall determine the value of the parcel of real property as of May first of the tax year and assess the property according to that value within the final tax list delivered to the county board of taxation on or before May 5 of that tax year, upon notice of that material depreciation by the property owner before May 3 of the tax year.

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