Allentown council faces decision on property assessment program

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ALLENTOWN – Municipal officials have been given a deadline of April 1 to decide if they want to rejoin the Monmouth County Assessment Demonstration Program (ADP).

According to the Monmouth County website, “While there are several components of the ADP, the overarching goal is to annually provide more accurate and uniform property assessments for fairer distribution of the annual property tax levy.”

In the county, 45 of 53 municipalities participate in the ADP. Allentown pulled out of the program several years ago and is one of the eight municipalities that do not participate in the ADP, according to members of the Borough Council.

The issue was discussed during the council’s March 12 meeting. At the start of the meeting, council members met in closed session for one hour to discuss the matter. The issue came up when council members returned to public session.

“Our executive session discussion was held to determine whether or not we should go back into the ADP,” Mayor Greg Westfall said. “We pulled out of the program because it affected some people’s taxes. We have been asked by the Monmouth County tax board to rejoin the ADP.”

Council President Thomas Fritts said, “We have two weeks to make an educated decision. Eventually, we may be forced into the ADP.”

Councilman Rob Schmitt said, “There is an anvil over our heads. Our skepticism (about the ADP) is based on volatility for individual homeowners and the impact of the program on school taxes.”

Municipal officials said if they decline to rejoin the ADP, they may have to conduct a complete reassessment of all properties in Allentown at a cost of approximately $70,000.

If the borough rejoins the program, 20 percent of the borough’s property’s would be reassessed on an annual basis at a cost of about $4,000, according to municipal officials.

The issue of Allentown’s participation in the ADP came up several years ago when county officials instituted the program.

Property owners saw a significant jump in school taxes due to criteria that in part relates to home sales in the borough and is used in the ADP. The calculations impact Allentown because the borough is part of a regional school district, according to municipal officials.

In the aftermath of that tax increase, Allentown officials filed legal action and succeeded in having changes made in the ADP by the state Division of Taxation that have worked to the borough’s benefit, Borough Attorney Greg Cannon said.

The changes relate to the time frame during which home sales in Allentown are examined as part of the ADP, according to Westfall.

The members of the governing body now have a little under two weeks to decide how to proceed in the matter.

In other business during the meeting, Uwe Dutton, who lives on Waker Avenue, told the mayor and council members that motorists are disregarding the 35 mph speed limit on the street.

Waker Avenue is designated as Monmouth County Route 526.

“Something needs to be done (about the speeding) before someone gets hurt or killed,” Dutton said. “There are no sidewalks for people to walk on.”

Schmitt said children, including his own, walk to school along Waker Avenue and he said “cars are going inches past pedestrians.”

Wil Borkowski, a former councilman who now serves on the borough’s traffic committee, said one of the panel’s goals for 2019 is to try to secure a 25 mph speed limit throughout the borough.

Borkowski said the committee’s other goals for the year are to create an access road around Allentown High School and to ban trucks on Church Street.