Reval restart?

State reported ready to order a Jersey City revaluation

In a move Jersey City officials claim is politically motivated, the state of New Jersey is reportedly prepared to order Jersey City to conduct its first property revaluation since 1988. A revaluation forces properties to pay taxes based on the current assessed value of the property, rather than the one from when the last reval was done, or from when they bought the house.

The assessed value of a property determines how much the property owner will pay in city, county, and school taxes. Older properties are often assessed at a value lower than their current worth, putting the tax levy burden on the backs of more recent home buyers.

Revaluations are unpopular with elected officials because they often lead to higher taxes on those older properties. Jersey City hasn’t done a revaluation in nearly 30 years. Estimates show that property owners are paying taxes on about $6 billion in total property value when the actual value of all property in Jersey City may be as high as $22 billion.


Political points


Shortly after taking office in July 2013, Mayor Steven Fulop ordered a halt to an ongoing revaluation approved by the previous mayoral administration, claiming it was flawed.

Although the city is currently in litigation to avoid paying the cost of the terminated revaluation, news reports claim that the state is about to order Jersey City and two other municipalities in the state to proceed with a revaluation of property.

The news accounts said the three municipalities have defied the state constitution requirement for “fair and uniform” assessments because the three towns have not conducted reassessments in decades.

However, Jersey City officials regard the timing of the order as suspicious. The state may require the new revaluation to be completed by November 2017, igniting a potential public backlash against higher tax bills exactly when Fulop is expected to either be running for governor or for reelection as mayor.

Republican Gov. Christopher Christie has a close working relationship with Democratic state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who is one of the candidates likely to run against Fulop for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

City officials believe that Fulop’s critical statements regarding Bridgegate – when Christie aides allegedly ordered the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish a mayor who, like Fulop, declined to endorse the governor’s reelection – may also be a contributing factor in the order to make Jersey City conduct a revaluation.

“We will review any documents from the state and respond accordingly.” – Jennifer Morrill.

“Obviously, this is Trenton politics at work because of the documented and rocky relationship between Mayor Fulop and Governor Christie dating back to Bridgegate,” said city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill. “If it wasn’t politics, why not treat all 30 New Jersey municipalities that are in the same situation the same way? We will review any documents from the state and respond accordingly.”


Alleged breach of contract


Jersey City is currently in litigation with Realty Appraisal Co., of West New York over the interrupted 2013 revaluation.

Fulop said the revaluation would have a “catastrophic” effect on home values citywide.

He also claimed that Realty Appraisal was chosen after an allegedly corrupt process and that the contract should not be honored. The West New York firm believes it should be paid the roughly $1.2 million it is owed, plus lost profits.

“From the start there have been grave concerns regarding the manner in which proposals for the revaluation contract were reviewed and recommended by the administration [of Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy],” Fulop said in a letter issued in 2013. “Not the least of those concerns involves the role played by the city’s prior business administrator [Brian O’Reilly] who, after leaving the city, became employed by Realty Appraisal.”

In February 2011, the Healy administration hired Realty Appraisal Company to perform the revaluation for $3.2 million. At the time, the process was supposed to be completed by the end of 2012. However, in February 2012, Healy requested a one-year delay, pushing the conclusion of the revaluation until after the May 2013 municipal election.

Fulop, who defeated Healey in that election, called Healy’s tactic a blatant political move that would delay an inevitable tax hike on tens of thousands of homeowners until after the election.

Fulop halted the revaluation shortly after taking office as mayor in early July 2013.

Within days of his move, the Hudson County Board of Taxation ruled that Jersey City did not have the authority to halt the revaluation and that it would likely be ordered by the state Attorney General’s office to let the revaluation resume.

In December 2013, Realty Appraisal Company filed suit alleging that the city terminated its contract with the firm without cause or legal basis. The complaint seeks money damages for amounts allegedly due and owing for work Realty Appraisal completed in connection with the contract. In answering the complaint, the city denied Realty Appraisal’s allegations in their entirety.

In 2014, Jersey City filed a countersuit against Realty Appraisal to recoup some of the $3 million from the firm.

The case went to court last month, but has yet to be ruled on.

Al Sullivan may be reached at

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