Tax bills reflecting the yet-to-be finalized 2007 municipal rate are landing in Red Bank mailboxes, and the annual rite of collective frustration they bring was amplified at last night’s council session by the impact of this year’s property revaluations.
Things got contentious at times during what turned out to be a butt-busting, three-hour-and-forty-minute meeting. Council members and taxpayers teed up “the system,” developers and one another at various points for their purported roles in making a bad situation worse.
“This is the gentrification of the West Side, and I am livid,” said freshman Councilwoman Grace Cangemi, who lives on Rector Place.
“Things are out of control,” she continued to redbankgreen after the meeting. “We have developers who own properties on the West Side who run them into the ground, and then build high-density housing on the site.” The effect, she said, is to push valuations of nearby properties through the roof.
“What do you do when you’re a senior citizen who gets hit with a $2,000 increase in taxes and you get a three-percent increase in your Social Security” cost-of-living adjustment, she asked.
Not all property owners have received their bills yet, borough CFO Frank Mason said, though he mailed them all the same day July 31. He said the Red Bank postmaster is investigating what became of an untold number of the bills.
Third-quarter tax payments are due Aug. 28. The owner of property assessed at the borough average of $405,000 would face an increase of $57 for the year in municipal taxes. But because the average was 2.3 times the average assessment in 2006 , the change magnified increases in spending by the two school districts that serve the borough as well as by Monmouth County.
Owners of properties that saw valuation increases of more than 2.3 times their prior assessments face the local-tax increase; those that rose by a lesser amount will see local-portion declines.
Muriel DeFazio, a senior citizen and crossing guard from Oakland Street, said her quarterly bill had risen by $500. But while the assessment on Councilman Art Murphy’s Prospect Avenue home rose, from $481,000 to $911,800, according to Monmouth County records, his local-portion tax bill declined.
(The fact that a fellow councilperson’s bill had declined, and that said councilman was Murphy, was revealed by Cangemi during the meeting. Murphy told us later on that he didn’t know his bill had gone down, and appeared to take the disclosure good-naturedly.)
The council had previously authorized the bill mailing, based on an estimated tax calculation, though the budget has yet to be adopted. An adoption resolution for the $20.2 million spending plan, which is to raise $8.6 million in municipal (as opposed to school and county) taxes, was originally on last night’s agenda. But that item was pulled without explanation, angering Councilman John Curley, who still went ahead with a lengthy critique of the spending plan.
Most of Curley’s criticisms have been aired before, ranging from the $10,000 raise granted to Public Works director Gary Watson to employees in that department who refuse to push lawnmowers to the Democratic administration’s tacit rejection of his proposal that the borough employ zero-based budgeting each year to rationalize each and every expense anew.
He also criticized fellow council members for accepting borough healthcare insurance coverage that they can avail themselves of through their employers.
As he has in the past, Councilman Michael DuPont, head of the finance committee, defended the spending plan as lean and prudent. He also chided Curley for failing to sit down with him and Mason to offer specific suggestions about how to balance the budget, as he said Cangemi had.
“I do not trust you enough to sit in a private meeting with you,” Curley shot back, eliciting a chorus of groans from the audience.