A flier targeting Mayor Joseph Accardi and Councilman-At-Large Carl Hokanson as wanting to “push through a $500,000 appropriation in the budget” without taxpayer approval has been distributed in the Colfax Manor Condominium area where, according to tax records, 5th Ward Councilman Michael Yakubov owns property.
The flier (available below) is in reference to the governing body considering budgeting for a townwide revaluation that would, according to New Jersey Office of Legislative Services Background Report No. 119, “ensure that the property tax burden is spread equitably among all taxable municipal property owners based on the value of the real property owned by each taxpayer”. Put more clearly in a 2010 revaluation guide provided by the state to all council members this year, a revaluation’s purpose is “to ensure that every property owner is paying his or her fair share of the property tax”.
Although there have been numerous instances over the past three years of Mayor Accardi publicly asking council to consider supporting a townwide revaluation during the annual budget workshops open to the public, it was not until this year’s workshops that serious consideration was given to the matter by council who have had discussions on it at almost every public meeting.
“I think it’s a shame,” said 1st Ward Councilman Andrew Casais referring to the flier, “I think based on the way it was written it was politically charged – politically motivated. It does nothing more than spread more misinformation.”
The councilman, who chairs the budget workshops, believes that the flier is a setback in terms of getting accurate information out to residents, especially since the governing body discussed reaching out to the public through various media before the flier was distributed. The councilman, who asked for input on the revaluation on his official Facebook page, concluded, “I feel very passionately about this because I think it will create fiscal stability for the taxpayers going forward. I’m frustrated with this [flier]. It’s so egregious to put out something like that. It serves no productive purpose.”
2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlene Storey plainly remarked, “This accusation of no transparency is frankly a lie. It seems to me that the people who wrote this flier aren’t trying to educate people about the reval. They simply seem to be interested in making people afraid.”
The councilwoman went on by saying that there has nothing secret about the revaluation nor how it could be financed. Citing examples of it being discussed at budget meetings, council meetings, and even her own councilwoman’s Facebook Page, Mrs. Storey added, “I find it disgusting and cowardly that while Mayor & Council have been completely open about the reval, this flier presents it as if there’s no reason for the revaluation. Many tax appeals are costing the taxpayers a lot of money and this flyer doesn’t mention that the borough’s taxpayers have lost nearly $700,000 due to assessment appeals. That’s the reason.”
3rd Ward Councilman Ryan Kelly stated that he had not seen the flier before reading it on councilman Casais’ Facebook page. Commenting on the revaluation, Mr. Kelly remarked, “I’m on the fence. The hit we’re taking from appeals is substantial. My thoughts and questions have remained the same since it was initially brought up in a budget meeting. Is this the right time?”
Councilman Kelly mentioned that his other apprehension was communication outside of meetings, stating that he would feel more comfortable if there was more input from residents. He added, “As a representative, I am here to question and explore all possibilities. I simply am looking into all scenarios before voting on a very important budget.”
When asked flat out if he had anything to do with the flier, councilman Kelly answered, “No.”
4th Ward Councilman Mohamed ‘Gino’ Elmarassy commented that he had not personally seen the flier although he had heard about it. He stated, “I’m looking to have a meeting with other members of council because of this flier but I don’t know what the flier says. Once I read it I will get back to you and my constituents.”
5th Ward Councilman Michael Yakubov said, “My comments are going to be the same as they were at the meeting. I think people should have an input on this budget in regards to this assessment and that’s my main concern. I think it’s something that should’ve been brought to the public not just at a council meeting or a budget meeting but a lot more open.”
When directly asked if he had any involvement with the flier, the councilman responded, not by denying involvement, but by saying, “I’m aware of the flyer. I’ve seen it. I agree with the material that’s on it and I’d be happy to give it out myself because I think it’s accurate.”
Pressed for a more direct response, Mr. Yakubov added, “I mean, I could tell you that I know who distributed some of them.”
Asked who that person was, the councilman replied, “I’m not going to comment.”
Councilman-At Large Carl Hokanson plainly stated, “It’s a bunch of bull. This is nothing but a lying scare tactic. First of all, who ever put it out has got no spine, not just because no one signed it but because they’re lying about what we as elected officials are doing. The figures about the 16 tax points being added are absolutely wrong.”
The at-large councilman added to the examples of outreach done by members of council, pointing out that since becoming a councilman, he has held numerous ‘meet & greets’ where he has invited residents to sit and talk with him about any topic over dinner – including the revaluation. Mr. Hokanson cited that the flier was distributed a couple of days after he was nominated by the Roselle Park Democratic Committee to run for mayor. He pointed out, “It’s awful funny that it’s only [Mayor] Joe Accardi and my name that are tied together. I can’t prove who’s behind this flier but I can tell you that I don’t own property in Colfax Manor.”
The councilman was referring to tax records that show the only member of the governing body to own property in Colfax Manor is 5th Ward Councilman Michael Yakubov.
Mayor Accardi declined to comment.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series on the tax revaluation flier. Part 2, which will address the letter itself, will be published tomorrow.)
Below is a copy of the flier available for viewing/printing/downloading: