JERSEY CITY – In a letter to Business Administrator Jack Kelly, Mayor-elect Steven Fulop has requested that Realty Appraisal Company discontinue work on the citywide property revaluation that began in Jersey City in 2011.
In a reval, a city reassesses all property to make sure that each one is paying the right amount of taxes, based on current market values. Revals are controversial because some owners will have to pay a larger amount than last time their homes were assessed, while others will see a decline.
In the letter to Kelly, Fulop stated: “From the start there have been grave concerns regarding the manner in which proposals for the revaluation contract were reviewed and recommended by the administration [of Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy]. Not the least of those concerns involves the role played by the city’s prior business administrator [Brian O’Reilly] who, after leaving the city, became employed by Realty Appraisal.”
In February 2011, the Healy administration hired Realty Appraisal Company to perform the revaluation for $3.2 million. At the time, the process was supposed to be completed by the end of 2012. However, later, in February 2012, Healy requested a one-year delay, thus pushing the conclusion of the reval until after the May 2013 municipal election. Fulop, who opposed the revaluation, called Healy’s tactic a blatant political move that would delay an inevitable tax hike on tens of thousands of homeowners until after the election.
“This reval was flawed from the beginning because it will result in a tax hike for tens of thousands of homeowners who cannot afford it,” Fulop said. “I will not allow this back-door tax hike planned by the Healy administration to take place.”
In his letter to Kelly, Fulop also noted, “there have been concerns raised regarding the impact of hurricane Sandy on property value and weather this impact dictates nullification of any assessments already undertaken and starting the process over again. Similarly, concerns about methodology and the fact that the process has taken an excessive amount of time resulting in property values changing while the revaluation is taking place call into question the validity of any report that might be produced. Public confidence in the process of real property evaluation dictates an investigation of these issues and, to that end, no further expenditure of public dollars should occur until and unless such an investigation reaches a satisfactory conclusion.”
Fulop requested that Kelly immediately stop payment on the contract and “immediately direct that Realty Appraisal suspend all work under this contract until such time that you and my administration can conduct a thorough review of the contract procurement process, Realty Appraisals performance, and the efficacy of pursuing a revaluation of the City in the current economic environment.”