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Edison council anticipates state relief from tax appeals

Written by Bob Makin |

 

EDISON — The Township Council expressed pride and joy over the passage of legislation in the state Senate on Monday that would give municipalities three years instead of 60 days to pay tax appeals.

On Wednesday, the council passed a resolution to pay $6.5 million in tax appeals, 95 percent of which is to commercial and industrial properties, said Robert Karabinchak, the council’s vice president. Karabinchak said the council is waiting for the assembly to pass the legislation next month, then the governor to sign it into law before it pays another $7 million in tax appeals.

After two years of lobbying for the legislation, including introducing a resolution last year calling for it, Karabinchak said he was proud of the Senate for passing the legislation, especially state Sen. Barbara Buono, who wrote it. Buono represents the township in the 18th Legislative District.

“I’m pushing all the contacts I have in the Assembly that I know and even ones I don’t know to vote for this next month,” Karabinchak said. “If the governor doesn’t sign this bill, then he’s not for the people. Those taxes still have to be paid, and the burden shifts to the taxpayers. That’s not fair.”

The tax appeal process needs to be reformed, Karabinchak said, because it favors owners of commercial and industrial properties much more than homeowners.

“They can afford the attorneys to file the appeals, which are approved by the township’s tax assessor and/or tax attorney,” he said. “A homeowner has to hire a lawyer or a real-estate agent to assess their property. Then they have to find three homes that sold at equal value and appeal to the county. It’s much easier to file a tax appeal if you own a commercial or industrial property, and that isn’t fair, either.”

Karabinchak said he was confident that the bill would pass in the Assembly and the governor would sign it because Democrats and Republicans teamed to approve it 25-12 in the Senate.

If the legislation doesn’t pass, the Council will be forced to raise property taxes or float a bond to pay for the tax appeals, Karabinchak said.

Five years ago, requests for tax appeals averaged about 50 to 60 per year, Karabinchak said. Last year, the township was faced with 300 appeals, he said. This year, tax appeals are expected to nearly double, he said.

“Without this bill passing, if we’re looking at bonding for this year and last year, you’re looking at $20 million in tax appeals,” Karabinchak said. “That’s not for fixing infrastructure, like roads and bridges, that’s tax appeals. That’s ludicrous. It’s like borrowing from your Visa card to pay your Macy’s bill.”