These are key facts to understand when understanding property tax law through the prism of Revaluation:
(1) The state defines property tax law. The municipality (e.g. Jersey City) is supposed to carry out the law. The county (e.g. Hudson County) is supposed to carry out some oversight capacity, including ensuring municipalities share the county tax burden equitably.
(2) Your tax bill is computed as follows:
Assessed Value X Tax Rate = Your Annual Tax Bill
In April 2016 the NJ Division of Taxation ordered Jersey City to conduct a Revaluation.
You can read the order here. It's a sobering assessment of Jersey City's non-compliance with state property tax law. The letter details:
- That Jersey City "is not in substantial compliance with the law".
- That Jersey City's equalization ratio is 27.63%, indicating outdated assessed values. You can read more about why that's a problem here.
- That Jersey City's coefficient ratio is 39.17%, indicating non-uniformity of assessments. You can read more about why that's a problem here.
- That Jersey City has seen notable zoning changes since 1988, which is a cause to revalue.
We can see Jersey City's unfair property tax system by comparing two homes that sold in 2017. The recent sale price is a good proxy for market value.
Here is what actually in happened in 2017 with these two houses:
(1) A home on Van Nostrand Ave (in Greenville) sold for $370,000. The 2017 tax bill for this home was $10,614.
(2) A home on 5th Street (in Downtown) sold for $1,250,000. The 2017 tax bill for this home was $7,120.
Here's what's so unfair: the 5th Street property is worth more than three times the Van Nostrand property, yet it pays less in property tax. This is because the assessed values of these properties - the basis for computing annual tax bills - are "frozen" in a 1988 paradigm (the last citywide revaluation in Jersey City occurred in 1988). And in 1988, the Van Nostrand property was likely worth more than the 5th Street property.
But...Jersey City has changed a lot since 1988!
Here's what Revaluation will do: it will update all assessed values to be equal to true market value. The tax rate also changes with Revaluation.
Here is what should happen with these two homes, after Revaluation:
(1) The Van Nostrand home's assessed value should increase to about $370,000. The new tax bill should be about $6,700 per year.
(2) The 5th Street home's assessed value should increase to about $1,250,000. The new tax bill should be about $22,800 per year.
Per state property tax law, a home that is worth more should, in turn, pay more in property taxes. Revaluation is meant to ensure that this happens.
It's worth also pointing out that both under-taxed and over-taxed resident are harmed by a failure to conduct regular revaluations. Consider:
- Residents such as the Van Nostrand homeowner have been over-taxed, probably for years, which is unjust for myriad reasons. Revaluation will finally - and rightly - fix this injustice.
- But with Revaluation, the 5th Street homeowner will see his/her tax bill more than triple. The steepness of this corrections is also unfair (even if it's necessary). Jersey City has had potential rationale to conduct a citywide revaluation as early as 2000. If Jersey City had conducted a Revaluation in the 2000s, the corrections would not be as steep in 2017.
Here's what's fair to everyone: revaluations that occur as soon as market values start to get disconnected from assessed values.