Since residents started receiving their tax bills on Saturday a number of questions have been raised by residents about the figures they received for the upcoming year.
Township Manager Helene Schlegel and the Mayor and Council sent out a pair of emails on Monday in hopes of answering some of those questions ahead of tonight's council meeting.
In the first email from the Mayor and Council several of the issues affecting the tax rates for residents were addressed as well as steps taken to tackle those issues. "The Governing Body after much thought, studying our budget thoroughly and public hearings and input made these decisions," it said of the budget process.
The email continued, "We have taken all measures to tighten our belts and weather the global situation. The Governing Body and Administration continue to seek ways to be financially prudent, streamline costs and ensure a budget of scale that will provide efficient government services."
Affect and Reasons for Reassessment:
There were several other factors that contributed to the tax bills that were received this weekend including "an extraordinary amount of tax appeals, leading to approximately 1.4 million dollar decline in revenue this year," the email said.
It was because of all those successful appeals that the county ordered a recently completed assessment. "The assessment further caused a significant decline in revenue due to declining housing market values," the email continued. "To make up this loss in revenue, the municipal tax rate needed to rise if local services were to be maintained."
The Mayor and Council also said it is important to remember that while the township collects money for several other "taxing entities," including the Howell Public Schools, the Freehold Regional High School District and Monmouth County only 18 percent goes into the township's coffers. The other 82 percent goes to the other groups, which also include the fire districts in the town.
With the appeals Schlegel said that the township is responsible for refunding the tax appeal reward while "the majority of the original taxes went to the Board of Education and Monmouth County." For 2011 that meant $1.148 million of the $1.4 million went to the school and the county.
Schlegel with the reassessment "properties that had been assessed much higher than the market value dropped, creating a more equitable distribution of taxes." She added, "Basically, each property ends up paying a fair share of the 'Total Amount to be Raised by Taxation."
Further information provided by Schlegel included:
The following is a guide to help figure out how your new assessed value affects your tax bill.
In this explanation, all things are kept the same as 2011. The explanation assumes there was no increase to the "Total Amount to be Raised by Taxation" from 2011 and only looks at your change in assessed value.
- Anyone whose assessed value increased, stayed the same or decreased by less than 19% will have had to pay a higher portion of the "Total Amount of to be Raised by Taxation" than they did in 2011.
- Anyone whose assessed value decreased between 19% and 20% would have had very little or no change in the amount of the "Total Amount to be Raised by Taxation" then in 2011.
- Anyone whose assessed value decreased by more than 20% will pay a smaller portion of the "Total Amount to be Raised by Taxation" than they did in 2011.
Other factors cited in the current budget process include costs outside of the township's control like "insurance, pensions, utilities and fuel, unfunded mandates, debt service and reserve for uncollected taxes."
Following the release of that email Schlegel said the tax bills impacted residents differently. She said 2,269 properties had their taxes remain within $50 of where they were last year. Of those 1109 were residential. She added that 6701 properties saw their taxes go up more than $50 of which 5706 were residential. Schlegel said 1567 properties went up more than $1000, with 1304 of those properties being residential.
Schlegel said 10,573 properties saw a decrease of more than $50 of which 9969 are residential properties. There are also 4888 of what Schlegel called "exempt properties," including 14 newly exempt properties which were overbilled and were exempted to return them to zero accounts.
There were also a total of 24 new properties on the tax rolls for 2012, which have no comparison.
In the email from the Mayor and Council several steps were outlined to help the township moving forward including "cooperation." The email said, "We must continue to work with other taxing entities, School Boards, County Freeholders, Fire Commissioner's, State Legislator's and increase efficiency while we try to find new areas of revenue."
Some of the work will be done in Town Hall, but the Mayor and Council said part of the responsibility lies outside of the town's borders. "The solution lies with the state legislature to find ways to take the burden away from property taxes and find a more equitable method of funding," it said.
In the town the council said in its email that several steps will be taken and have been taken in the past. "Despite our current fiscal situation, there is hope. Due t our budget cuts, making many changes designed to improve the efficiency, finances and productivity of our town and the release of financial constraints, set by the Governor's tool kit on municipal budgets we anticipate savings in health insurance and pension costs which will help produce a reduction in our tax levy."
The email also said that other steps have been taken to save costs citing decisions like the purchase of the former Global Building, which is now being designed to be the new municipal complex. That purchase, they said will help generate revenue through the leasing space in the building to tenants.
Other examples cited include, "reduction in the workforce by 20%, shared services with surrounding towns, partnering with PAL for recreation, leveraging technology to reduce supplies, restructuring fees for permitting and development, reducing professional fees and investing in green technology to cut utility costs."
These moves, the council said helped to cut $600 thousand from last year's budget. "We are confident that every decision we have made so far, and will make in the future, are the same that any other reasonable, educated citizen of Howell would make if they were in our position."
They added, "We truly want to have Howell be the best place to live and raise our families and are working diligently to achieve that goal."