Category Archives: tax assessor

Corruption Behind the $4 Million Tab for Tax Appeals in Middletown

By guest blogger Linda Baum

I’m sure we all recall the big jump in our property assessments on 2009 tax bills. That was the result of a town-wide revaluation done at the height of the market in 2008 — a huge mistake. It guaranteed there would be an onslaught of appeals and the drastic measures we saw this year by the Mayor and Township Committee to find extra money to pay the $4 million dollar tab.

Remember the ugliness? The seizure of $500,000 of library funds and threats of police layoffs to gain concessions. Middletown certainly didn’t feel like a great place to live.

The Township should have done a revaluation years earlier. It had been at least 15 years since the last one. The company hired to do the revaluation had difficulty explaining the delay. That company, Realty Appraisal, does loads of revaluations around the State, and the cause for the delay didn’t stem from their efforts. So then where does blame lie?

If you spoke to the County Tax Administrator, I’m sure he would tell you that revaluations should probably happen every 4-5 years. By waiting, Middletown drew the ire of the County Tax Board.

Middletown Republicans basically thumbed their noses at the County and refused to do a revaluation while other municipalities followed the law. Meanwhile, the richest property owners in the Township saw property values increase hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in that time period while their taxes were based on assessments from long ago.

Residents in less affluent sections of the Township were picking up the tab for the Navesink River Road crowd. That’s because when expensive properties are dramatically under-assessed, the effect is to remove potentially hundreds of millions from the town-wide assessment base. The result is that everyone else pays proportionately more.

The low assessment base means that the tax rate would have been set too high. Evidence of that is the big decline in the overall tax rate upon revaluation – it went from $3.787 in 2008 to $1.725 in 2009 (per $100 of assessed value). Owners of newly built homes would have been among the most adversely affected by the inflated tax rate, which, coupled with their higher more up-to-date assessments, means they were paying more in property taxes than they should have been in the years prior to the revaluation.

The bottom line is that the more valuable your property and the longer you owned it, the more money you stood to save from the Township’s failure to revaluate.

Per the County, around 60% of Middletown residents saw a reduction in taxes as a result of the revaluation. Since the Township still needed to collect the same total revenue, it stands to reason that owners of high end properties saw the largest dollar increases in their taxes after the revaluation.

It seems to me the Township most likely delayed the revaluation for two reasons.

First, the Republican Party leaders resided along the Navesink River Road corridor and had enjoyed tax-free, enormous increases in the value of their homes. As they took advantage of this increase in equity, the Township gave them a free pass. A revaluation would have increased taxes for many of them.

Second, Democrats had started to take seats on the Township Committee and the Republican Party desperately wanted to avoid losing votes, and possibly control of the Township, by doing a revaluation. Republican strongholds like Shadow Lake might have punished Republican leaders for tax increases and shifted the balance of power.

The County was upset with Middletown officials and, in 2008, took the unprecedented step of suspending our tax assessor, Charlie Heck, for failing to submit the paperwork necessary to do the revaluation. In a brazen admission of the underlying truths, then Mayor Scharfenberger actually referred to Mr. Heck as “Saint Charlie”. And this year, Mayor Fiore and our all-Republican Township Committee voted unanimously to award Mr. Heck a $15,000 bonus.

While you can draw your own conclusions, it seems obvious to me that Republican officials manipulated the process for their own political and personal financial gain. Due to their delays, when they were finally compelled by the County to submit the data for the revaluation, they did so on the eve of the financial crisis, just before property values plummeted. It would have been wise to postpone the revaluation until the market settled, but they couldn’t ask for another extension because they were already in deep trouble with the County for waiting as long as they had.

The delay cost taxpayers dearly. To deal with the unrealistic property data created by the poorly-timed revaluation, the Township was forced to undertake a costly reassessment this year, forcing taxpayers to expend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a reassessment that could have been avoided.

The overall tab may be $6 million or more now. Township officials won’t reveal how much or exactly where the money is coming from to pay for it. But appeal awards continue to roll in, and one thing is certain. Middletown residents will be feeling the sting for years to come.

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Filed under Charles Heck, corruption, Middletown Township Committee, property tax reassessment, property tax revaluation, Republicans, Shadow Lake, tax appeals, tax assessor, tax rate

>It’s Your Town – Newsletter Volume 3, Issues 6- 3/21/11; The Mayor Explains The "Bonus"

>This edition of the It’s Your Town Newsletter contains information about the March 21,2011 Middletown Township NJ Committee meeting. The meeting was short, lasting a little more than an hour. After Committee comments only two members of the public addressed concerns to the Committee.

Items that were spoken about include the transfer of surplus funds from the Middletown Library to the Township for the purpose of tax relief and the giving of a $15,000 bonus to the Township Tax Assessor Charles Heck, that Mayor Fiore later categorized as a stipend, for his work preparing for the township wide reassessment.

Here is a small excerpt from the newsletter that contains Mayor Fiore’s explanation of the bonus to Tax Assessor Heck:

…Mr. Fiore said in respect to the bonus of $15K to the Tax Assessor, Mr. Heck and the $5K bonus to the Assistant Assessor is very simple. He said the Township Committee reached a consensus and agreed that since Mr. Heck saved the Township $50K by doing some of the work Reality Appraisal was contracted to do he deserves the bonus. He said the Committee had the same consensus last year and that in order to spend $20K to save $50K, that is a pretty good spend when it is a net savings of $30K for the Township. He said that was not a bonus, but a stipend for the additional services by taking on more responsibility with the reassessment. Mr. Grenafege said that he and Mr. Fiore both worked in corporate environments and this is considered a bonus…


You can read the full Newsletter >>> Here

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Filed under bonuses, Charles Heck, Its Your Town, Middletown Library, Middletown NJ, Middletown Township Committee, Newsletter, stipend, surplus funds, tax assessor, Tony Fiore

>APP: Middletown assessor to get $15G payment for reassessment work

>So what do you know, I guess someone over at the Asbury Park Press has been reading my blog.

In today’s paper APP report Kevin Penton has written an article about the $15,000 bonus that Tax Assessor Charles Heck will be receiving for doing his job.

Two things that stand out in the article are that no one would make themselves available for comment other that Tony Fiore; not Township Administrator Tony Mercantante or Charles Heck himself, would comment.

Secondly is the arrogance of Fiore himself. Fiore is quote, “Let’s face it, without this money, there would have been no incentive for them to do the work.” referring to Heck and his assistant working extra hours for the bonus, instead of doing what would be expected from someone who earns $108,572 from the tax payers of Middletown.

Lets face it, Heck has a very cozy job, so cozy that he is able hold similar positions in town other towns, which has increased his salary and benefits to over $164,000 according to Data Universe , so let’s not try and kid anyone. Heck should not be getting anthying extra from the Township for doing a job that he is already highly paid to do.

Any money that the Township has realized as savings from Heck’s work should go to saving jobs, not lining Heck’s pockets. For Fiore to justify Heck’s bonus by stating ,”To spend $20,000 to save $50,000, that’s a pretty good spend.” as he did at Monday night’s Township Committee meeting is asinine. The whole $50,000 belongs to taxpayers and should be used towards saving jobs,services or paying off debt. Not for lining a political flunky’s pockets.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, bonuses, Charles Heck, kevin penton, Middletown NJ, stipend, tax assessor, Tony Fiore, Tony Mercantante

>Middletown Tax Assessor To Receive $15K "Bonus" Under New Salary Ordinance

>According to the new Township Salary Ordinance 2011-3027 that will be voted on and possible adopted at Monday night’s Township Committee meeting in Middletown, the Township Tax Assessor Charles Heck, is in for a windfall bonus of $15,000 for doing such a great job preparing for the Township reassessment.

Heck’s base salary is already over $108,000 according to the APP’s Data Universe . And everyone knows what a great job he did preparing the Township’s re-evaluations, he was suspended without pay for withholding information and not turning in reports on time. The work he did was of such quality, it sparked a huge avalanche of tax appeals that the Township is still trying to dig itself out from under.
Now, the Township thinks that Heck was overworked gathering numbers for Reality Appraisal, the company that the Township paid $400,000 to recently and was in charge of the reassessment, so he should be given a $15,000 bonus for all his extra work!
According to former Committeeman Sean Byrnes, the Township Committee tried last year to give Heck his bonus, but when Byrnes complained and disagreed with the idea it was dropped from consideration. Now that Byrnes is no longer on the Committee, those that feel Heck should be compensated for his fantastic extra work on behalf of the Township, have once again introduced it and plan to move forward.
I suppose this bonus money is coming from the funds that have been pilfered from the Library’s $500,000 that they Township has just confiscated.
BTW – The Assistant Tax Assessor will also be receiving a $5,000 bonus according to Ordinance 2011-3027 . Does anyone know who that person is? They must be doing an equally bang up job as Heck has done to justify a bonus when other’s have been subject to a salary freeze.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, bonuses, Charles Heck, data universe, Middletown NJ, property tax reassessment, property tax revaluation, resolutions and ordinances, tax assessor

Middletown Committeeman Byrnes Questions Mayor’s Demand for Revaluaton Relief

Countering the position taken by Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger, Middletown Township Committeeman Sean F. Brynes, today called upon Township Tax Assessor Charles Heck to refrain from taking any action outside the normal process envisioned for implementation of Middletown’s Revaluation.

“Middletown has delayed implementation of the revaluation for three years, has had its tax assessor suspended, and has had to budget an additional $150,000 for failing to complete the revaluation in 2008,” said Committeeman Byrnes. “In so doing we have forced a majority of our residents to endure higher than justified taxes while the owners of a small percentage of the most valuable real estate in the Township have paid taxes based on extremely low assessments.” Byrnes continued, “We don’t need to spend any more taxpayer dollars delaying or interfering with this process. Further delays will only force a majority of our residents to carry the tax burden for a small minority who own valuable real estate. Current assessment figures suggest that two-thirds of Middletown’s residents will experience a decrease in taxes based on 2008 budget figures.”

“I strongly disagree with the Mayor’s assessment that ‘adjustments need to be made to many of the assessments arrived at by the Realty Appraisal Company’. “I suspect that the bulk of the complaints referenced by the Mayor come from owners of properties with high values that have not been reassessed for decades”, continued Byrnes. “While these residents, like every Middletown resident, have the right to challenge the fairness of an assessment, there is no need at this point, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, for the Township Committee to take action and incur additional unnecessary expense engaging in reassessments.”

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Filed under Mayor Scharfenberger, Middletown Township, Middletown Township Committee, property tax revaluation, Realty Appriasal Company, Sean F. Byrnes, tax assessor, township budget

Middletown Committeeman Byrnes Questions Mayor’s Demand for Revaluaton Relief

Countering the position taken by Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger, Middletown Township Committeeman Sean F. Brynes, today called upon Township Tax Assessor Charles Heck to refrain from taking any action outside the normal process envisioned for implementation of Middletown’s Revaluation.

“Middletown has delayed implementation of the revaluation for three years, has had its tax assessor suspended, and has had to budget an additional $150,000 for failing to complete the revaluation in 2008,” said Committeeman Byrnes. “In so doing we have forced a majority of our residents to endure higher than justified taxes while the owners of a small percentage of the most valuable real estate in the Township have paid taxes based on extremely low assessments.” Byrnes continued, “We don’t need to spend any more taxpayer dollars delaying or interfering with this process. Further delays will only force a majority of our residents to carry the tax burden for a small minority who own valuable real estate. Current assessment figures suggest that two-thirds of Middletown’s residents will experience a decrease in taxes based on 2008 budget figures.”

“I strongly disagree with the Mayor’s assessment that ‘adjustments need to be made to many of the assessments arrived at by the Realty Appraisal Company’. “I suspect that the bulk of the complaints referenced by the Mayor come from owners of properties with high values that have not been reassessed for decades”, continued Byrnes. “While these residents, like every Middletown resident, have the right to challenge the fairness of an assessment, there is no need at this point, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, for the Township Committee to take action and incur additional unnecessary expense engaging in reassessments.”

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Filed under Mayor Scharfenberger, Middletown Township, Middletown Township Committee, property tax revaluation, Realty Appriasal Company, Sean F. Byrnes, tax assessor, township budget