|By Jean Mikle, Asbury Park Press, N.J.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Why are our taxes so high?
"This is highly unusual," Viggiano, 62, said as she sat on a stool at the counter in the kitchen of the 500-square-foot home on
"Everybody is buzzing about it," Viggiano said.
Residents at the beachfront communities say they are in shock at the large tax increases in the second year after Sandy. After the superstorm devastated parts of the
But now that the area is recovering, property and home values are being raised by the tax assessor. The tax break residents received last year is disappearing, even as many struggle to recover from the storm.
In 2012 -- before Sandy hit -- Viggiano and Punko paid
Now that rebuilding is occurring and many homes are again occupied, assessments are being changed to bring them closer to pre-storm values, based on property sales in the area during 2013, Toms River Tax Assessor
"Very little was collected on the barrier island in the first two quarters," Kenny said. "They are going to be paying the majority of their taxes in the third and fourth quarters...The increases are because of the dramatic reductions we did last year."
This has resulted in out-sized tax bills that have dozens of residents crying foul. They claim the increased amount of the quarterly bills caught them by surprise. The change in assessments has also made it more difficult for property owners to calculate the exact amount of their 2014 taxes. Kenny has posted an explanation of the process on the township's website.
The large boosts illustrate the difficulty faced by tax assessors in calculating values after the storm, according to Monmouth County Tax Administrator
He said assessors are only just starting to collect data on the post-Sandy housing market, data that includes dunes, new home elevation requirements, the amount and resiliency of dunes and other coastal barriers.
"It is the actions of the buyers and sellers -- who must consider this new bundle of concerns -- that will be used to set the assessments moving forward," Clark said in an email.
To residents of
"There are people here who can't afford these payments," Viggiano said. "People here were not prepared after the bills we received last year. We thought it was a permanent reduction."
Most of the value is in the land in Ocean Beach II. The house was assessed at
In 2013, the land value was reduced to
"What we are concerned about is, why is this preliminary tax bill so high?" Viggiano said. With the area still only partially rebuilt, she doesn't think her home is worth anywhere near as much as the more than
Kenny stressed that if residents multiply their third-quarter payment times four, they will not be getting a true calculation of the amount they owe in 2014.
Take, for example, a home where the annual property tax bill is
So he was surprised to receive such a large tax bill. "I was shocked," he said. "To me, it's just more of the same. Hit them while they're down." Before the storm, Edrington paid about
"I'm upset," Edrington said. "I haven't built a house yet. The area is nowhere close to being back the way it was before the storm." He said it's clear that when he eventually builds his house, he will be paying much more in annual property taxes than he did before the storm.
Reductions in assessments also happened in nearby Brick, where Tax Assessor
"No single taxpayer is back to 100 percent on the barrier island," Raftery said.
"If they come out and send me another bill for
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