Contract For Tax Appeal Attorney Doubled

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Published: September 23, 2018 @ 12:00 PM EDT

The governing body doubled the budget of the borough’s tax appeal attorney to $30,000 at the September 20th municipal meeting. The law firm of Palumbo Renaud & DeAppolonio – previously named Palumbo & Renaud – has been appointed as Roselle Park’s tax appeal attorney every year since 2015.

Increases from the original amount budgeted for such services has been the case for six out of these last seven years, with only 2015 keeping its original amount. For all other years, the amount paid has never been less than $20,000.

Year
Original Amount
Increased Amount
2013
$15,000
$20,000
2014
$10,000
$25,000
2015
$10,000
$25,000
2016
$10,000
$25,000
2017
$10,000
$25,000
2018
$15,000
$30,000

Councilman-At-Large Joseph DeIorio commented during the vote that he had concerns with the revaluation, not the tax appeals attorney. He remarked, “I’m not questioning the ability of our tax appeals attorney, he knows what he’s doing. My question was specific to the revaluation and how the revaluation of these particular items are changing or will change even in the state’s appeal process from what they were originally assessed at.”

Mr. DeIorio was asking about the boroughwide tax revaluation conducted by Realty Appraisals, Inc. in 2015. He added, “I just want to make sure that the revaluation was done properly when it came to these types of properties; it’s usually the higher end properties – commercial or non-residential properties.”

Councilman DeIorio suggested that at a future meeting, either the tax appeals attorney of the borough tax assessor available be available to review the revaluation. The councilman-at-large concluded, “While I support the passage of this, I think maybe it’s time for a review just to make sure that what we got several years ago has been doing well for us or not.”

An additional point that should be addressed is that bids accepted should take into account such increases since they appear to be the standard, not the exception.

Using 2013 as the example, the original amount bid by – and awarded to – Philip Morin was $15,000. This was 50% more than the next year’s tax appeal attorney bid of $10,000. But in the end, Philip Morin increased his amount by $5,000 for a $20,000 (Resolution 236-13) while Eric M. Bernstein increased his budget by 150% to $25,000 (Resolution 228-14). Even with an additional $2,617.10 that Philip Morin end up charging for his tax appeal services, it was $2,882.90 less than the $25,000 approved by the governing body for Eric Bernstein the next year.

From 2014 to 2017, the lowest awarded bidder put in $10,000 as what they expected to charge to handle the borough’s state tax appeal cases. This year, the base amount bid was $15,000 and that has now doubled to $30,000.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Ken Blum stated that tax appeals to the state tax court have increased. He reflected that between 2015 and 2017, the municipality has spent over $60,000 for tax appeal attorney fees. This amount does not include the judgment about paid when the municipality lost a tax appeal defense at the New Jersey State Tax Appeal Court. The fees reported by the CFO were:

  • $17,666 in 2015
  • $22,250 in 2016
  • $22,105 in 2017

Mr. Blum concluded by saying, “They’re not sure they’re going to need the entire $30,000.”

This resolution only covers appeals that make their way to the state tax court. County and other tax assessment appeals are handled by Realty Appraisals Company as part of their three-year contracted coverage for such services.