"I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so," summed up Mayor Sandy Moscaritolo's reaction to the news about the River Edge reassessment results. Out of the 83-page report the majority of homes will see a reduction in their assessed value but at the same time those residents seeing an increase ranging from 16% to 109%.
"The reassessment was a bad idea," Moscaritolo said. "It's a shell game to move numbers around and its opened a can of worms. Residents who had newer construction homes, did work or made improvements will bear the brunt of the reassessment. I have two words for you 'tax appeal.'"
The assessment by Appraisal Systems cost the borough approximately $174,000 by teaming up with Cresskill and Dumont to share the cost. For the past two years the borough had been slammed with tax appeals, approximately 150 as of and then 132 by .
Two families who were hit the hardest by the reassessment were Raymond Frost of Lozier Terrace with a 16.27% increase and Dominick and Anna D'agostino of Oak Avenue saw a 10.79% hike.
Frost who bought his home in 2008 underwent the last reassessment at that time for a tax bill of $10,000. The new construction home was built the prior year for an assessed value of $540,300 - today it stands at $628,200.
"When I bought the house the taxes were $10,000," Frost said. "I'm now paying $14,000 and under the new assessment my taxes increase to $19,000. What I want to understand is how in three years my taxes have increased by 90%. I looked at homes in Oradell and Franklin Lakes, but now my family may have to move out of town, out of state even. I'll be honest, I can't afford $19,000 in taxes."
According to Frost prior to the reassessment he had considered finishing his Dutch basement but now won't consider making any improvements.
"I compared homes around my size with ones in Oradell and Franklin Lakes, and my taxes here are the highest. In Franklin Lakes I could have a bigger lot and pay less taxes. I absolutely would not have bought this home today. I can't even sell it for what I bought it at, my assessed value is higher than it was in 2008 and so are the taxes."
The D'Agastino's who only moved into River Edge last year after getting married also purchased a newer construction (built in 2009) to create a better life for themselves. Their 2011 assessment sat at $734,700 and jumped to $814,000 with a $24,000 tax bill to cover.
"After one year in town we're paying $19,700 in taxes and with the new assessment we'd be paying $24,000," Dominick D'Agastino said. "What are we getting for $24,000 a year?"
The D'Agastino's both still work in their former home of Garfield - Dominick as a physician and Anna in the school district. They have no children in the school system and did not make any improvements to their home after its purchase.
"Half of her salary will pay our taxes," Dominick D'Agastino said. "We moved here to better ourselves and have the house of our dreams. Now we want to put a for sale sign on the house because we're being priced out of town."
"I'm a teacher," Anna D'Agastino said. "I work after school tutoring, Saturday programs, I can't work any more. "We didn't make any improvements and we don't have any children. By time we might have children in the system we would have spent $100,000 in taxes. It's a beautiful hom but there is nothing to separate it from other homes that are paying less. I feel like I'm being robbed. I never wanted to have a bad taste in my mouth from living in River Edge and now am upset. I don't want to feel that way about the community we live in. I just don't understand how with nothing being done (to the house) the assessment could go up."
Approximately 254 homeowners out of 1,000 will see their assessment go up but it will come with an aggregate $9,000 increase overall. Even those residents who will see a decrease in their assessment may still see a tax hike in the end.
"We were advised by the tax assessor to go forward with this to save us from being killed by lawsuits," Council President Paul Cordts. "Most of us are shocked by how it game out. I have friends who jumped $7,000 to $8,000 and then on the other end, friends with larger houses who are getting a tax reduction.
Residents who have questions about their reassessment or would like to have it reviewed can contact Appraisal Systems at 201-493-8530.
Tax Assessor James Anzevino and a representative from Appraisal Systems will be invited to a future council meeting to explain the reassessment formula and how residents got the results they did.