A section of the crowd at Byram's meeting. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Larry Nick speaks about the issues at Cranberry Lake. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Kathy Edwards at the microphone. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Steven Glassen discusses issues with his revaluation. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
George Aubrecht addresses the council. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
David Blakely sworn in on the Byram Township Fire Department by Mayor James Oscovitch. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Councilwoman Nisha Kash addresses fellow members of the council. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Resident Marel Albrecht at the microphone. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Pat Reed, another Cranberry Lake Resident. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Members of the Byram Township Education Foundation board: Jennifer Cusack, Kristen Miller, Nicole Parezo, and Tracy Church (Andrea Grant not pictured). Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Residents Air Concerns About Cranberry Lake Revaluation
Saturday, August 18, 2012 • 9:19am
BYRAM TOWNSHIP, NJ – Township residents packed the Byram Township Council Meeting to overflowing on Tuesday night, to voice their concerns about the recent revaluation of lakefront properties in the Cranberry Lake section of Byram.
Mayor James Oscovitch made it clear no action was being taken on Tuesday night.
Cranberry Lake resident Marel Albrecht, was the first to address the crowd. She clarified it was not attacking township issues, including the school budget.
“It’s about attacking appraisals, and how they’ve been distributing them through the town,” Albrecht told the council. “I don’t thing you’re aware of it.”
Albrecht said the 200 homes in Cranberry Lake experienced more of a tax increase than the 3,000 other homes in Byram, which experienced minimal decrease.
“The 200 homes realized a 20 percent increase from 2011 to 2012 due to the reval,” she said.
Albrecht said her home was valued at approximately $300,000 in 2009, and in 2012, came in at $298,000.
“I thought this was great,” she said.
However, she learned because the rate was raised, the valuation decreased, and her taxes escalated from $8,000 a year, to $9,500.
“My home is 1,200 square feet with two bedrooms, and .19 acres,” Albrecht said.
She said in another section of town, she would pay lower taxes for a home twice the size, and a parcel of land four to ten times the size.
“I was prepared for an annual increase of $500 to $700,” she said. “This is not a normal increase. This is my baseline now, and I really have a problem with their revaluation. This is unfair to the Cranberry Lake Lakefront. The tax burden for the lakefront homes has been targeted.”
She said Cranberry Lake Lakefront residents are picking up a $300,000 tax burden.
“We the taxpayers of Cranberry Lake are being taxed out of our homes,” Albrecht concluded. “The vast majorities of them have histories at the lake, and town dating to 50 years.”
Pat Reed was another one who noted a net difference of $2,000 a year in taxes.
“I think we’ve been singled out to carry the weight,” Reed said.
Larry Nick, another resident, said he went through the appeals process in 2009, and had his taxes reduced by 15 percent. And in 2012, the taxes are back up again.
“I feel frustrated, I don’t get a logical answer,” Nick said. “There’s a Cranberry Lake uniqueness, so we get the bump.”
Nick said he pays $7,000 in taxes for his home in Cranberry Lake, with no services, and $11,000 in taxes for his 2,400 square foot home in Chatham with all the proper services.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Nick said.
“I don’t know what they’re assessing,” said Kathy Edwards, who described that her home “barely has a dock.”
Steven Glassen asked, “How can you justify this?” with his total value increasing from $48,000 to $198,000.
The township attorney, Thomas Collins, explained that the reassessment brings all line items to the true market value.
“There is an error, and it is being brought against us,” Glassen said.
Oscovitch said the assessments are based on formulas, and the evaluations from the tax assessor.
“If you think the value is incorrect, you need to talk to Penny [Holenstein] in town hall,” Oscovitch said.
Resident Patty Jennings asked which company was performing the revaluation, and Oscovitch replied, “Appraisal Systems”, a company located in Morristown. The County of Sussex mandated Byram to have the revaluation.
The meeting became out of order at moments, with some members of the public speaking out of turn, and the sound of the gavel came from the front of the room.
“If you can’t do this in a calm fashion, I’ll close to the public,” Oscovitch stated, as lake residents continued to ask why the felt the lakefront homes were the only ones that appeared impacted.
“It’s all in here,” said Aubrecht, holding up a copy of the report.
“We listen to you, we care what you say, we can’t change the assessment,” said Oscovitch.
“We took a big hit,” George Aubrecht said, before asking the council, “Would you like that hit? What are you going to do with us?”
Marel Aubrecht asked if because there are only 200 homes in question, if the government could adjust the rate.
Township Manager Joe Sabatini said the rate is based on the net valuation of the town. He suggested the residents’ look at the comparative sales in their area, which may help their cases.
Tracy Church asked if the residents could have answers by the next council meeting.
Oscovitch suggested if there was information, It could be emailed to residents, however, Church explained not every lake resident was a club member, and on email.
Councilwoman Nisha Kash said, “I think Tracy’s idea is good.”
Oscovitch suggested a meeting with the residents.
Sabatini told the meeting attendees the tax assessment information is available on the township’s website. Click here to access. http://byramtwp.org/index.php/town_hall/township_offices_detail/tax_assessor
In other business:
· David A. Blakely was sworn in as a regular member of the Byram Township Fire Department.
· Members of the newly formed Byram Township Education Foundation (BTEF) presented to the public information about their foundation. Jennifer Cusack, Kristen Miller, Nicole Parezo, and Tracy Church, all members of the foundation’s board of directors, presented (member Andrea Grant was not present). Cusack explained the Byram Township Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity with a goal to raise funds for items that would help enhance learning. “The future of Byram depends on how well our schools do,” Miller said. “We want to reach children on an educational basis.” Miller said they differ from the Byram PTA, which coordinates events rather than fundraising through grants as the BTEF does, yet both work to benefit the schools and students. The BTEF has a Facebook Page, website, and P.O. Box to accept donations. Their P.O. Box is: BTEF, P.O. Box 15, Stanhope, NJ 07874.
· Roseville Road may experience road closures through next week due to reclamation and paving work.
· PSE&G will begin work in Byram Township on the transmission line, with pre-construction meetings beginning to take place. The new line is planned for installation by May 31, 2013. Olson said all PSE&G vehicles would be marked, and workers carrying identification.
· Councilman Carlos Luaces complimented to Balancing Balloons Day event, which he and Kash said they attended with their families. For the story on the event by The Alternative Press, click here.
· Oscovitch said he and Kash attended the dedication of two dams with the Boy Scouts at Mount Allamuchy Scout Reservation. Click here for the story in The Alternative Press.
· Head-butting took place between Oscovitch, Councilman Scott Olson, Councilwoman Maria Raffay, and Luaces, with heated discussions about Highlands Council issues.