The site was an auditorium at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School. Mayor Scott Evans, Tax Assessor Novelette Hopkins, and Ted Lamicella of Certified Valuations, Inc. (CVI) prepared to again face angry property owners.
I invite you to view the “Round One” posting for more of the nuts-and-bolts of the Re-Valuation process. Here I want to share what was unique about this meeting, as compared to the first meeting at Uptown School Complex.
There were approximately 110 people. Both the Mayor and the Tax Assessor began the night by introducing themselves and their poor grammar. The Mayor employed “most highest” as the adjective to describe his commitment to a smooth re-valuation. Ms. Hopkins responded “more louder” to a question about how loud she should speak. We can only hope that the administration’s grasp of the re-valuation process is stronger than their grasp of the English language.
Ted Lamicella had the unenviable of attempting to explain the details of the re-valuation. The dilemma is that the people asked 1 hour and 40 minutes worth of questions, yet were largely uninterested in detailed answers to their questions. The crowd was evenly divided between those who realize that the amount of tax is determined by the County, School, and City budgets, and those who think that the valuation firm is responsible for the imminent tax hikes.
The startling discovery was revealed that close to half of those in attendance had an inspector come to their home, step inside the front door, ask some questions, and leave. Mr. Lamicella announced that the standard protocol is for the inspector to take dimensions of the exterior and then come inside and perform a full examination. When various residents brought this discrepancy to light, Lamicella reiterated CVI’s policy to perform full interior investigations:
Lemicella – “We go inside and assess all physical characteristics.”
Woman – “Not in 90 seconds while standing in the doorway.”
Lemicella – “We go in all houses and inspect the whole thing, that is the protocol.”
Another woman – “Not on this side of town.”
The issue was pressed by several people: how much money CVI is being paid for their services. There were two bids advertised by the City, one for the Casinos and another for everyone else. CVI won the non-casino bid. They were the lowest bid from a state-approved agency. The ballpark figure from Ms. Hopkins is $900,000.
The overall range of value increases for property is from 3x – 12x, according to Ms. Hopkins. Wards 1-4 have received their preliminary assessments in the mail. Wards 5 & 6 have yet to receive that information. They have hit an unspecified problem along the way. Tomorrow night’s meeting should be fun, when over a hundred property owners converge on that meeting with their frustrations, without preliminary assessments.
Ted was the outlet for the accumulation of over thirty years of residents’ collective frustrations. The Mayor left during a portion of the meeting – to return later – leaving Ted to field the abuses of over a hundred angry homeowners. A point raised by myself at the meeting: The Mayor and Council-members have known about the court-ordered re-val for a while. We cannot get out of performing the re-val. The action that can be done, which is the one concrete action to lessen the anticipated August tax-bills, is to cut the budget. Neither council nor the Mayor have announced their intent to lower the budget.
There were rumours galore. Mr. Roundtree alleged, and was seconded by Mr. Young, that the Casinos have legislation in place to lessen their tax burden from approximately 80% to 70%. Another woman thinks that eminent domain will be implemented to push out Venice Park homeowners to make room for a golf course.
The residents, mainly senior citizens (one woman said, “We all seasoned in here.”), were very mindful of the unfulfilled promises and dreams of legalized gaming. People were told that A.C. property tax would decrease and become non-existent. Instead we have lived through one bad city administration after another. “I don’t know which Mayor, there have been so many disasters,” said a woman trying to recall one of the many empty promises from Atlantic City politicians.
In closing, we join with one questioner, “Mr. Mayor [Evans], since you are the new kid on the block. Do you recall the promises of no taxes?”