All across Howell residents found their tax bills in their Saturday mail and for many the news was not good for their wallets.
In a year when meant lower property value for many in the township those seeing their taxes go up were less than pleased with the numbers on their bill. Township Tax Assessor Gregory T. Hutchinson said in a press release more than the reassessed values of people's properties goes into figuring out what people pay in taxes.
The first factor, he said is the tax rate which can only be set "after the budgets for the municipality, county, and are completed and the total amount to be collected by taxes is calculated." State aid to the county, municipality and is also factored in to determine the total amount that needs to be collected.
Hutchinson said the tax levy is then divided by what is known as the Total Ratable Base (TRB) which he said is "how much the municipality is worth based on current assessments." With the decline in the housing market Hutchinson said the township's TRB decreased between 19 and 20 percent this year alone.
"Due to the fact that the amount of taxes that needs to be collected has only slightly decreased, and the ratable base has been cut by 20 percent, this is why the end result of the reassessment is an increase in the tax rate," he said.
The final tax amount for each resident is then determined by multiplying the new assessed value of a property by the new tax rate per $100.
Mayor Robert Walsh said he understands the frustration being expressed by residents but said the governing body did its best to limit the hit they took. Walsh said of the taxes collected only 17 percent goes to the township while 83 percent goes to the schools, the county, and the fire districts.
"I could see people being unhappy about the amount of taxes they pay," Walsh said. "We've done everything we possibly can to keep the tax dollars as low as possible but you also have to deliver services."
Since joining the council Walsh said the township has cut its workforce by 20 percent while pension costs have more than doubled and insurance costs are up more than 80 percent. "I'm frustrated also, I'm a frustrated taxpayer." Walsh said.
The problems, Walsh said go far beyond Howell's borders. "The whole system does need to be addressed," he said. "I think you're seeing a collapse in different parts that if this system isn't addressed, I've said for years now that we're going to look at these decisions and say they were easy. I believe our toughest decisions are ahead of us, not behind us."
Cities and towns in places like California and Pennsylvania have declared bankruptcy in recent months and Walsh said he believes it is just the beginning. "I think you're seeing the tip of the iceberg here," he said. "I wish I could tell people I would lower their taxes but as a mayor and governing body you must still deliver core services like health, safety and fixing the roads."
Walsh said he knows these are tough times for people in the township and beyond. "I'm very realistic," he said. "I own two properties in Howell and both of them just went up in their taxes. I'm not happy about it, but I am also realistic enough to know, what else do people want me to cut. I'll be glad to listen."
Following years where the workforce has been cut and there have been furloughs in the township in the not too distant past, Walsh said finding areas to cut that will not have a major impact on the lives of residents is getting harder. "The rubber is meeting the road between the taxpayer and vital core services," he said.
The next meeting of the Mayor and Council is set to be held on Tuesday at 7:30 at . The Board of Education will meet on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Middle School North.