A five-year pilot program in Gloucester County, New Jersey that centralized property tax assessment in one county office has been completed. A new report details the changes that have impacted property owners with the move away from having each individual municipality handle assessment duties.
New Jersey's 565 municipalities typically hire their own professionals to handle tax assessments. Legislation signed into law in 2009 and implemented in 2010 allowed Gloucester County to conduct a pilot program with state funds earmarked to assist. The report says that the creation of the county assessor's office has collectively saved the 24 towns in Gloucester millions of dollars.
With 16 full-time staff members, including inspectors and lawyers, the assessor's office is split into four divisions: commercial, residential, farmland, and tax map maintenance.
Improved Ratio of Equalization
Another factor in the change to countywide assessments is an improved average ratio of equalization. This ratio documents how close property tax assessments are to market value.
In 2009, Gloucester County's overall assessment ratio was 57.69. It rose to 98.28 in 2014. Officials say their aim is to continually keep on top of revaluations to insure that assessments are as close to 100% true value as possible.
Will Other Counties Follow Suit?
Now that the results of Gloucester's pilot program are public, it's likely that other counties will consider a countywide shared-service approach to property tax assessments.
Property tax assessments are now closer to market value than they have been for many years, causing many taxpayers to experience substantial increases in their property values. Theoretically, property tax rates should be reduced to offset the average countywide increase in value.
With the changes in Gloucester County, taxpayers, particularly commercial property taxpayers, must ensure that their tax assessment accurately represents their property's market value. Otherwise they will end up paying more than their fair share of property taxes.