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Value of Middlesex real estate:  $2.2 billion

by Larry Chowning

In 2011 Middlesex County underwent a county-wide reassessment of real estate, the values of which were used in the 2012 tax year. The reassessment was done by the appraisal firm Wampler-Eanes.

Many property owners appealed their assigned values to the Middlesex County Board of Equalization. In November 2012, the Board of Equalization completed hearing the appeals and, in many cases, assigned lower values to the property.

On February 5, Ray Kostesky, the chairman of the Board of Equalization (BOE), reported that the board lowered the value of some properties after hearing the appeals. The total decrease in value was $1,414,500. With the current 46-cent real estate tax rate, the $1,414,500 in less value equates to $6,507 in less taxes.

This is a far cry from the reduction in 2008 at the start of the recession when the BOE reduced assessed values of real estate by $6 million.

The BOE is a citizens group appointed by the board of supervisors to review taxpayer complaints (appeals) concerning their reassessments. Middlesex County traditionally reassesses its real estate values every four years.

Kostesky reported that his board decreased the value of 121 properties, increased the value of 21 properties, and left the value of 50 properties unchanged.

Ninety-seven taxpayers appealed their property assessments on a total of 139 parcels. Kostesky said 22 other persons scheduled appearances, but either cancelled or failed to show; and 53 additional parcels were acted upon unilaterally by the board as a result of its research into ongoing appeals.

“For example, during the hearing of an appeal in a townhouse development, we discovered errors in the assessment,” said Kostesky. “We changed values of 36 units in the same development because of similar characteristics.”

Operational costs for the BOE was $4,485, which included compensation, travel and administrative costs, said Kostesky. The group met between March and November of 2012.

Kostesky recommended the county pass an ordinance establishing a deadline for the submission of an appeal. “This will speed up the process, increase its efficiency, and benefit the commissioner of the revenue office and the treasurer’s office,” he said.

He suggested supervisors should consider appointing the same persons to the BOE three years from now after the next reassessment. “The experience of one or two members of a former board will be helpful to a new one, as it was to ours,” he said.

Kostesky also asked supervisors to consider appointing an alternate member. “One of our members attended 5 of 16 sessions because of work commitments, leaving us with 4 voting members during these times, an undesirable number.”

Prior to establishing the next BOE, Kostesky recommended publishing information in the newspaper outlining the functions, process, and governing ordinances of the BOE. “This might preclude unnecessary appeals,” he said.

He recommended supervisors consider requesting Middlesex’s state delegates to pursue a legislative initiative allowing an appellant to waive the 45-day waiting period between a citizen given notice of an appeal and the hearing.

Kostesky also provided some general observations. He said the compensation for board members was adequate and reasonable; county administrative support was excellent; Wampler-Eanes was responsive and cooperative in responding to information requests; the State Tax Department was helpful and responsive to questions from the committee and provided good training; and the general public lacks sufficient knowledge of the board’s functions and governing ordinance.

Kostesky also praised the leadership of the board’s administrator, Diane Baird. “Ms. Baird was assigned to the board as its administrator and . . . performed her tasks in an outstanding manner,” he said.

In 2008, the Middlesex County land values were $2.4 billion, which generated $8,554,776 in taxes. In 2012, the value of land was $2.2 billion, down because of the recession, but the tax value increased to $10,089,817. Even though land values had gone down, taxes have gone up as supervisors raised the tax rate from 43 cents to 46 cents to offset growing expenditures.

The value of property in land use in 2008 was $87,315,800, which generated $305,607 in tax revenue. In 2012, value of property in land use decreased to $71,379,400, which generated $328,345 in tax revenue.
If land use taxation was eliminated, the amount of tax generated on that would be $401,652—a $73,653 increase in revenue. 

posted 02.27.2013

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