While a majority of businesses saw smaller or unchanged tax bills, others rose 25 percent or more.
Mayor John Spodofora read a statement into the record at the Oct. 1 Township Council meeting in response to a recent article in a local
publication apparently alleging township officials may have influenced the
recent property revaluation.
“In 2013 prior to Hurricane Sandy, but in response to changing market conditions, Stafford Township planned and began the process necessary to reassess the Township. ….. The assessment process is controlled by state law and the county board of taxation. It is not a process in which the Township Council has any legal authority to set property values and to influence the outcomes. In fact, the process is deliberately set up that way so as to avoid undue political influence," Spodofora said.Since the values used were set before Superstorm Sandy and other market changes prior to a total value being finalized, the township reduced the overall assessed by 18%, he said.
As a result, many properties, both residential and commercial, saw reductions in their tax bills, while other less affected saw increases in part to offset the loss.
“If anyone believes that these conclusions are inaccurate the law provides a method for property owners to challenge the assessment through the tax appeal process," the mayor said in the statement.
A reassessment is the way a municipality ensures that each property owner is paying their fair share of the tax levy, he said.
Dave Taylor - an owner of Taylor Made Cabinets and former council candidate - said during the public portion of the meeting that the increases, especially to small business owners, would cause them to have to shut down or move.
“Those little restaurants, little pizzerias and shops we all like are going to will be gone,” he said.
Small shop owners in various strip malls will see their rents go up $800 to $1,000 a month and they won’t be able to absorb that increase, Taylor said.
Taylor said the rate on his own building went up 28 percent and others have gone up even more.
Some medium to large businesses are also feeling the pinch, with one local car dealership eventually paying more than $400,000 in local taxes, Taylor said.
Council President Henry Mancini told Taylor sthat the current rates were set to “level the playing field” after Sandy. The township has to meet its financial obligations as set forth in the recently adopted budget that raised the overall tax rate less than 2 percent and came in under the state mandated spending Caps.
Administrator James Moran also noted that the tax bills recently sent out are double bills to make up for missed quarters due to Sandy.
“Those bills will be lower next time,” said Moran.
Still Taylor is concerned
that Stafford may once again become a
commercial “ghost town.”
"We have worked long and hard to get this place back,
and I don’t want to see us lose it again," he said.