By Andrew Martins
ALLENTOWN – Three state legislators have offered their support to the Borough Council in its bid to appeal a calculation that is expected to result in a significant increase in school taxes for Allentown residents.
Allentown and Upper Freehold Township comprise the Upper Freehold Regional School District and split the costs of operating three schools. This year, Allentown’s share of the district’s 2016-17 tax levy increased from 13.04 percent to 14.26 percent, translating to an increase of about $530 in a property owner’s school taxes, effective with the August tax bill.
Borough officials are objecting to and questioning the way state officials came up with Allentown’s net equalized value and the resulting 1.22 percent increase in the portion of the tax levy Allentown property owners must pay to support the school district.
In a letter to Judge Patrick DeAlmeida of the New Jersey Tax Court, state Assemblyman Robert Clifton, state Assemblyman Ron Dancer and state Sen. Sam Thompson (all R-Ocean, Monmouth, Burlington and Middlesex) echoed the sentiments of Allentown officials who claim the looming increase was born of a flawed assessment program.
In a May 27 letter to DeAlmeida, the legislators urged the judge to decide the matter in Allentown’s favor. They said the increase in school taxes will have “a significant negative impact on taxpayers, specifically senior citizens and those on fixed incomes.”
“On behalf of our 12th District constituents, the residents of Allentown, we respectfully request that you seriously consider Allentown’s appeal for a recomputation of their school apportionment rate,” the legislators wrote.
Out of more than a dozen property sales that occurred in Allentown between Jan. 1, 2015 and June 30, 2015, state taxation officials used three home sales to come up with a net equalized value for the borough. That calculation moved Allentown’s share of the school district’s 2016-17 tax levy from 13.04 percent to 14.26 percent, translating to an increase of about $530 in a property owner’s school taxes, effective with the August tax bill.
Allentown’s representatives reviewed the assessment methodology used to compute the borough’s school tax apportionment rate. Based on what officials said were documented errors in the assessment methodology, a request was made for a waiver of the current apportionment rate. There was no commitment from the Treasury Department on a waiver, according to Laurie Gavin, the acting borough clerk.
Councilwoman Madeline Gavin, Councilwoman Johnna Stinemire and Mayor Greg Westfall were joined by Dancer and Clifton for a discussion of the situation with state Department of Treasury officials on May 20.
The Upper Freehold Regional School District Board of Education has adopted a $41.07 million budget for the 2016-17 school year. The budget will be supported by the collection of $25.19 million in taxes from residential and commercial property owners in Upper Freehold Township ($21.6 million) and Allentown ($3.59 million).