“The [tax] rate should decrease” (Mrs. Jennifer Couthan).
“We hope so” (Mayor Scott Evans).
“Let us pray” (Mrs. Couthan).
Here is found the prevailing sentiment of the Westside Protective Civic Association. The monthly meeting held last night (Monday, 7 January, MMVIII) began with an address from the Mayor to the 32 attendees. He discussed the possible outcomes of people challenging their property assessments. Again demonstrating his superior grasp of the English Language, the Mayor said that property owner appeals will effect their valuation. “They can lower, or even higher [sic] the value,” said the Mayor.
The Mayor stated that Lower Chelsea was hardest hit by the property re-valuations. City Council “tinkering” with the budget will affect the City’s ability to implement a five-year phase-in for property owners seeing a dramatic tax-bill increase, said the Mayor. The Mayor’s administration is attempting to be the first NJ municipality to implement an existing statute that allows dramatic local tax increases to be phased-in over a five-year period. The phase-in allows property-owners to pay 20, 40, 60, 80, then 100% of the increased taxes, instead of being hammered with the full increase. It has been 21 years since the last re-assessment of property value. One can only imagine the discrepancy between assessed and market value.
Citizens’ concerns betray a basic mis-understanding of the re-valuation’s effect on property taxes. The assessment does not determine the market value. The housing market determines the assessed value, assuming that Certified Valuations, Inc (CVI) is conducting the assessment justly. The assessment does not raise the tax rate. That rate is certain to decrease. The question is: how low will the tax rate go? Further, the tax rate is determined by how much money the Mayor, city department heads, and Councilmen demand from the taxpayers through the budget.
The heart of the re-valuation dilemma is not the sloppy way in which many home inspections were conducted. The central problem is not that Atlantic City has neglected to conduct a re-valuation in 21 years, when the law dictates that they occur, at least, every ten years. The major problem remains that the City has a spending problem. Various City Mayors and Councils have been on a spending spree. The answer is to cut the budget.
We heard Council President William Marsh speak and spoke with him afterwards. He deplored the litany of half-truths and schemes that are paraded in front of Council to justify spending during the budget meetings. We applaud his frankness yet neither in public, nor private, does Councilman William Marsh, or any other elected official for that matter, vow to cut the budget. When will we hear an elected official committed to cutting the city budget?
Mayor Evans pinned some of the blame, for the imminent budget increase, on then-Acting Mayor Marsh’s quickly settled labor contracts. “Who made all those contracts? Who made all those contracts?” queried Mayor Evans, in response to Westside Civic Association’s President Betty Lewis. As if on cue, Councilman Marsh marched in the room within a minute of the Mayor’s comments.
Councilman Marsh announced that he recently moved to the Westside. He was largely responsible for the civic association’s ability to meet at Dr. M. L. K., Jr. school complex. The Board of Education started the new year by notifying the civic group that they now need a million dollar’s worth of insurance to meet in the auditorium. So much for making it easy for community groups to use a community building. …
“I do not apologize for creating a labour peace,” boasted Councilman Marsh. He and Mayor Evans represent the two sides in the very divisive issue of the hastily agreed-upon employee contract negotiations. The room was equally divided on the wisdom of the 4% raises, as evidenced by the gasps, cheers, and boos coming from attendees.
Councilman Marsh was proud of an ordinance passed by Council that mandates aspiring applicants for the police test must reside in Atlantic City for at least four years prior to taking the test.
It was revealed during the meeting that the Fire Department, unlike City Hall and the Police Department, does not require a psychological test for applicants. Police recruits will be denied if they are overweight.
Our thought: why not make existing overweight police officers go on a diet? We find it very reasonable to require those who are charged with–and paid for–protecting our safety, to also maintain their fitness.
Mayor Evans announced that he released a memorandum earlier in the day to department heads that all vehicles and gas usage must be recorded. Out-of-city vehicle usage must be approved on a case-by-case instance. We sincerely hope that there is accountability wrought in city government.