2nd Reval Meeting Answers More Questions

Although the numbers in the audience were much less than the first revaluation meeting held last month, the two dozen residents in attendance yesterday morning were on-hand to ask more questions of Realty Appraisal Company. Mayor Carl Hokanson was not present due to attending the funeral of former Roselle Park Mayor Eugene Carmody. The meeting was led by Councilwoman-At-Large Charlene Storey and she was accompanied by First Ward Councilman Eugene Meola as well as Second Ward Councilman Joseph Petrosky. Neil Rubinstein and Mark Duda from Realty Appraisal Company as well as Union County Board of Taxation Administrator Christopher Duryee and Borough Tax Assessor Gail Scaglione were also in attendance.

The meeting started with a short presentation with representatives from Realty Appraisal Company repeating what they stated at the first revaluation meeting. Adding some more detail, Mr. Duda stated, “When the guys walk through your house, they’re not interested in your furniture or your appliances or your clothing or your pets or your taste in artwork. What they’re doing is they’re measuring the structure. That takes most of the time that they’re on your property. They’re going to walk around the outside of the house, they’re going to measure it and they’re going to sketch it. That’s how you get your gross living area. When they’re in your house, they generally start from the basement up. They’re going to note what’s down there, whether or not it’s finished, the quality of the finish. They’re going to walk through your first floor, they’re going to count rooms on that floor: beds, baths, living room, dining room, kitchen, what’s ever there. They’re going to note the finishes you have; in other words, is your counter made out of formica or is it made out of granite – that sort of thing. They’re going to ask you some questions. When was your kitchen last updated, when were the baths last updated. They’re collecting data for evaluation so the last questions are pertinent to that evaluation. Then they’ll walk upstairs and count the rooms the same way.”

Mr. Duda commented that inspectors, who visit between 40-100 house a week, will spend about 10 minutes inside and residents should not be concerned about housekeeping. The majority of the inspection time will be spent outside the house. He added, “While they’re on your property, if there is anything about your property that you think affects it value, please point it out.”

He provided examples of basements flooding or a neighborhood church that affects noise and traffic on Sundays.

It was mentioned that, as of the meeting, about 10% of the inspections have been conducted and that no property owner has refused entry. Another piece of new information was that the usual deadline for filing appeals will be extended one month in 2016 for Roselle Park to May.

During the question and answer period, Realty Appraisal Company discussed how short sales are not used in an assessment of surrounding properties but that a neighborhood’s characteristic – such as a large number of short sales – would impact an assessment. Foreclosure sales, bank sales, family sales, and short sales would all fall into a category labeled non-usable and are not given as much weight.

Another misconception that was clarified was that the assessments are solely determined by the firm. Mr. Rubinstein, in line with the revaluation contract, confirmed that a final assessed value is made after it is reviewed by the Borough Tax Assessor and agreed by both parties.

One of the most important questions came from Dexter Delacruz. He asked “What does it mean from a tax perspective? Without getting the final tax value, I don’t have a point of view [of] how hard I should go back at you. So I get the number, you guys are the experts so you will have done a lot of due diligence, but I won’t know if I should dig my heels because I don’t know what the impact [is]. And if the impact is large, that has consequences for me as a person versus a process.”

“That’s 100% true,” responded Mr. Rubinstein, clarifying that the review with Realty Appraisal will not be discussing the tax impact but the assessment value, “The assessor’s job and our job is to re-assess property at fair market value. So we tell you we think your home is worth X and you say ‘I think it is’. The impact, which is what we certainly know that is what I care about, what we all care about is how it affects us in our tax bill. But by law we’re not going to know that. The budget’s won’t be stuck until the following May or June so we’re not going to know the impact or the results of your assessment. It’s not really done on purpose but the timing of it says you have to consider at that time one thing, whether you think the assessment of your property is fair or not. If we say it’s worth $250[,000] and in your heart of hearts you think it’s worth $230[,000], then you’ve got to come talk to us. If you think it’s worth $260[,000] and many people will get that letter and say “I think that is about right’ and toss the letter. The purpose of the revaluation is to bring back that equilibrium in taxation. I know that care is what the effect is, how much more or less, may be in my tax bill but that’s not our responsibility.”

“Like Neil said, at the end of the day, the number is the assessment,” said the Borough Tax Assessor Gail Scagliione, “I know you’re concerned about what’s the tax rate going to be. We don’t know that until the budgets are stuck [in 2016], until the final assessments. The whole idea behind the revaluation is, is your assessment correct. I know it’s very hard, and believe me I get it, it’s very hard to put out of your mind how is this going to affect me tax-wise but the purpose of the revaluation is to get a fair assessment on your property.”

Councilman Eugene Meola asked on behalf of a resident if there was a way to make arrangements to have a house inspected if, in this case, a senior couple was going away to Europe for six months. Mr. Duda stated that his firm would not mind doing that for the occasional resident on a case-by-case basis. In such instances, the resident can call Mrs. Scallion at (908) 245-2540.

In response to an anecdote relayed of an inspector asking a neighbor about another homeowner’s property, Mr. Rubinstein responded, “The only time you ever ask a neighbor about another neighbor’s home is if that home was empty . . . We’re not going to ask any neighbor about any particulars of another neighbor’s house. There’s no reason to do that because we’re going to go to every house. The only time will be if it’s for to gain admittance to that property.”

It was added that any such concerns or complaints should be addressed to the Brough Tax Assessor’s office or Realty Appraisal Company.

Another resident, Sundjata Sekou, asked if arrangements could be made to notify either the municipality or Realty Appraisal Company of someone being at home during the day who does not speak English. He was told that such arrangements could be accommodated if previous notice is provided to the firm or the Borough Tax Assessor’s office.

At the close of the meeting, Realty Appraisal Company gave out their contact information for their website (link), Roselle Park’s revaluation status page (link), and their phone number (201) 867-3870.

According to the governing body, one such revaluation information meeting still remains but a date was not given out yesterday.

Attached below if a copy of the contract and brochure for Realty Appraisal Company along with sample Letters of Value, inspection sheets, and other information: