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Tax Increases In Shore Towns A Certainty After Superstorm Sandy

Budget increases due to storm costs, plummeting ratables make a nasty mix

Jersey Shore residents shouldn't waste any time wondering if their taxes will go up in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

They will. Without a doubt.

That was the somber message tax attorney Jeff J. Horn had for members of the Regular Republican Organization of Berkeley Township Monday night.

Toms River-based Horn was originally scheduled to speak along with Berkeley Tax Assessor Eric L. Zanetti at the Central Regional Middle School, but Zanetti had to cancel because of bronchitis.

Municipal, county and school budgets will rise, as officials struggle with plummeting ratable bases due to the storm which slammed into the Jersey Shore on Oct. 29, he said.

"The ripple effect is going to impact all of us," Horn said. "That's the basics. It is going to cost all of us a couple of bucks."

Deadline to appeal looming

Horn urged any homeowners whose property was destroyed or substantially damaged to file for a reduction in their property assessments, under a little-known state statute.

State statute N.J.S.A. 54:4-35.1 allow residents to appeal for the material depreciation of their homes due to natural disasters like Sandy from Oct. 1 to Jan. 10 the following year, Horn said.

"How many people know about the law?" he asked. "Nobody."

Berkeley homeowners impacted by Sandy must notify Zanetti by Jan. 10 to request an inspection for a possible drop in their property assessments, he said.

"Just give him a piece of paper with your name and address on it," Horn said. "That is sufficient notice."

Residents who do receive reduced assessments will only keep them until their homes are rebuilt or habitable again.

"If you rebuild, it's put back on the tax rolls," he said. "If you can live in the house, it's substantially complete."

For residents who are unsure if they should ask for a reconsideration of their assessments, Horn had an answer.

"I would err on the side of caution and send in the form," he said. "Leave it to the assessor to do the right thing and take something off."

Horn is a past member of the Ocean County Board of Taxation.

"The standard is to take off 30 percent," he said. "The key is to give the assessor a chance. I was on the board. I always gave the person the benefit of the doubt. I always took that improvement off."

Rising insurance costs

Homeowners and flood insurance costs will surely rise over the next several years.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency's advisory base flood elevations were issued in December.

"The code is changing," he said. "There's no question about that. It's going to cost you more money. It's not a happy event for anybody, even those whose property has not been impacted."

Horn said he is repeatedly asked 'Who is going to buy my house?' " since Sandy.

"You can talk to 10 different persons, you get 10 different opinions," he said. "I have no idea."

Recovering from Sandy will take quite some time, Horn said.

"People are going to suffer badly," he said. "Say you have to raise your house. We're talking about a lot of money. How fast are you going to be able to get it done? Not everyone is going to be able to run right in and get rebuilt. We're running out of legitimate contractors."

Towns like Seaside Heights are already borrowing money to rebuild boardwalks and other shore attractions, which will impact tax rates for years, he said.

"That builds a fixed item into the  budget that can never go down until it's paid off," he said.

"Everybody who pays taxes is getting a tax increase," Horn said.

none of yobusiness January 10, 2013 at 01:26 AM
With the increase of taxes and hopefully federal money, I cant help but wonder which one of our slimey politicians will be caught with his or her hand in till first?
Rick Ricky January 10, 2013 at 01:28 AM
Where is Chris Christie with all his promises. My taxes have increased since he has been in office. His 2% cap never worked, now the storm and all these towns using excuses to gouge more of the residents with tax increase. Get rid of employee's, end of story. I don't care, do without. We will have to be short on police, cut down garbage to one day. Do what it takes.
Rick Ricky January 10, 2013 at 01:36 AM
Ryan, It is not just Brick, it is the same crap in all the towns. Chief Wahoo...You are so right. All these council members have to chop the bloated salaries, chop the employee's do what it takes, less police, public works, cut garbage down to one day, Start hiring part-time workers for all these small towns or use sub contractors for all the building department and everything else. Share lawyers and everything else with bloated salaries. The residents should demand the party is over. The work will get done. Residents can't afford double digit increase on their taxes. This is bull, they need to stop buying and control spending.
Rick Ricky January 10, 2013 at 01:45 AM
Cut the over bloated school budgets too! They don't need all the employees either. The superintendents just keep on doling out jobs to their friends, girlfriends, wives, their friends, sons, daughters, cousins...it is ridiculous what goes on.
Rick Ricky January 10, 2013 at 01:58 AM
johnjcpa, Really...All the schools are over bloated with those who do nothing but walk around in circles. Way to many administrators that are not needed. Is that a joke. Go to board meeting to voice your concerns. It is a waste of time. They are not interested on what residents have to say. They do what they want no matter what. I find most lie a lot and are arrogant. Many districts are spending like crazy if they have the money. As long as they stay under the 2% they don't need the residents. There is no vote.

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