At last night’s Mayor & Council meeting, the governing body voted on and unanimously approved Resolution 101-14, which allots the funding needed to hire a state approved firm to conduct a townwide revaluation of assessed properties in Roselle Park.
This resolution followed a first reading of Ordinance 2405 for introduction which is to approve the actual revaluation.
The vote was 4-1 in favor to introduce the Ordinance for discussion and a vote at the next Mayor & Council meeting on May 15th. Fifth Ward Councilman Michael Yakubov was the only dissenting vote.
Resolutions have one reading and are discussed and voted on during the same meeting. New Jersey law requires ordinances have two readings so that adequate public notice (two weeks) is provided to allow for a Public Hearing by residents and interested parties at the second reading when it is voted on during a subsequent meeting.
In effect, Councilman Yakubov voted no to present the revaluation for a discussion or a vote but approved the payment of it.
“I think we did do quite a bit of discussion amongst members of council in budget meetings and other avenues. It was obviously something that I had questions about and from the beginning I said I wasn’t 100% for it or against it. I wanted to know the information,” the 5th ward councilman stated on the dais, explaining his reasoning for his votes, “One of the issues that I had was that we didn’t have anyone come in who’s an expert, who’s done a reval before, potentially somebody from the outside as in the past with other initiatives and explain to council what are the possible ramifications. What are the positives, what are the negatives. What is the process of how the revaluation is done? What potential impact it could have? So I did some of my own research. Reached out to people in other municipalities and just talked to individuals, some who have been through the process, educated myself on it. I obviously asked the questions and, yes the tax bills are certainly hurting the municipality and our budget.”
Mr. Yakubov went onto say, “I know that at some point we’re going to have to do it and I appreciate, again, other individuals saying we’re able to find funds that are not going to be an impact to the budget so that’s why I didn’t want to stop the process from going forward… I really would like to have somebody have come in and expressed to us – whether at a council meeting or a budget meeting – what would be the possible implication of this process. I didn’t want to stop it.”
It was then noted that Mayor Joseph Accardi had publicly requested that if Councilman Yakubov wanted to bring in someone to answer questions, he could do so. The councilman responded, “I did my own, I chose to do my own research.”
When asked what his expected vote would be for the second reading of Ordinance 2405 to conduct the townwide revaluation, Councilman Yakubov answered, “I most likely will support it.”
Asked what his expected vote would be for… revaluation, Councilman Yakubov answered, “I most likely will support it.”
Being pointedly asked why he would then vote no on the first reading when it is expected he will vote yes during the second reading, the councilman stated, “I still have some additional questions but again at some point I want to be able to I guess make a statement to some degree and just say that anytime we have a big initiative like this coming up I really want to have somebody come in and express to the council. It shouldn’t be just an onus on me as an individual [to find] a person. I think, in the past, and this has been good practice, we’ve had an individual come in whatever the initiative may be. Come speak to the council and educate us because we’re not all completely knowledgeable of every single initiative that’s going to be passed.”
Mayor Accardi added to the conversation during the meeting by commenting, “Councilman Yakubov just said [that] when discussing the reval he said there was quite a bit of discussion among members of mayor and council and yet a flyer went out that you [referring to Councilman Yakubov] admitted that you were involved in the distribution of the flier that specifically said the antithesis of that.”
“Actually Mayor, I said I agree with a portion of it that there wasn’t a public input on that flier, “replied Councilman Yakubov, “I did not write it.”
“Yet you put out the flier and you just said that there was quite a bit of discussion and that you agreed with the contents of that flier,” the mayor continued, “Not a portion of it, you said you agreed with the contents of that flier. I think you owe at the very least, I’m not asking an apology for myself, but I think at the very least you owe Councilman Hokanson an apology for the contents of that flier. It was politically motivated.”
Councilman Yakubov simply commented, “I did not write it.”
Further along in the meeting Jacob Magiera, as a resident, asked if there would be any information from professionals on the revaluation. Councilman-At-Large Hokanson stated, “As far as the reval, from day one and in budget meetings, through mayor & council we always said that there would always be workshops. We are going out to bid to get the company whomever’s going to come in to do the reval. The professionals will be here. We will also bring in the other people. We’ll bring in the tax assessor, Gail [Scaglione]. From day one we said that there will be town input but we want to get the person or company that’s going to do it to answer the questions directly.”
Mr. Magiera asked, “Will the professionals be here prior to issuing the contract?”
“No,” responded Councilman Hokanson, “Once we get the person or the company that comes in to do it, that person will answer the questions. I’m not going to bring somebody in to answer the questions that we’re not going have him doing the work.”
Mayor Accardi added, “Ironically, councilman Yakubov made a big deal about bringing somebody in but he hasn’t produced anybody to come in to do it. We’re all willing to do that. We don’t have a problem with that. I’d encourage it if Councilman Yakubov wants to bring somebody in.”
Councilwoman Charlene Storey also remarked, “I think we have all done our research on this. Nobody has just said well I don’t understand that so that’s okay. I have posted on my Facebook page and I’ve also posted links to the information given out by towns that have done this before us. I have also offered both here and online to drop off information to people and I have had people call me up and I have dropped off packets of information and I believe Councilman Hokanson has done the same thing.”
She stated that she is aware that not everyone in the borough has easy access to the Internet but that information is available through various different venues.
“We should have someone in before any contract will go out for bid,” Mr. Magiera suggested.
“We have that almost in play now,” Councilman Hokanson stated, “We have our tax assessor that’s answering the questions. If you have questions, we’ve given out booklets. Gail has been overworked as far as answering questions from all of us council. We’ve had our Chief Financial Officer already answering questions so as far as somebody already here, we have that person. But now, when it comes to finally being done, we will have the professional, the person, who will give you the answer that you will ask.”
“Only after he signs the contract?” Mr. Magiera asked.
“That’s how it works,” replied Councilwoman Storey.
It should be noted that conducting a cursory search of records, there have been no contractors who have come in before bidding to discuss an initiative in recent years other than bidders for the red light camera system at the intersection of Westfield Avenue and Locust Street. Additionally, a review of revaluation firms shows that, as of March 2014, there are only ten (10) firms approved by the State to conduct a revaluation. Their information is listed below:
|Appraisal Systems, Inc.|
|Certified Valuations, Inc|
|GAR Associates, Inc.|
|Martin Appraisal Associates, Inc|
|Professional Property Appraisers, Inc.|
|Realty Appraisal Company|
|Renwick & Associates|
|Robert M. Sapio|
|Tyler Technologies/CLT Appraisal Services|
|Vital Communications, Inc.|
Townwide revaluation has become a political topic during this year’s mayoral election with an anonymous flier being distributed in a section of the borough which made claims against Joseph Accardi, the sitting Mayor, and Carl Hokanson, the Democratic candidate for mayor.