This is the third year for the Assessment Demonstration Program (ADP) for home assessments in Manalapan. What were the promises and where are we? We recently went through the yearly assessment and appeal. This is what we found.
The ADP promised that if an assessment was “$1 off” it would get adjusted. Manalapan prepares elaborate spreadsheets that are supposedly the scientific basis for the assessments, but when a homeowner points out errors in the algorithms used or errors in the township data, the tax appeal board said the data is “a work in progress” and not to worry about it.
Our property card, and other property cards in our development, all official Manalapan records, is replete with errors, inconsistencies and unexplained changes since 2014. When we pointed out the errors to the appeals board, we were told, “The only thing that is important is the final number.” There was no intention to correct the data errors, contrary to the goals of the ADP.
We were told that when using the ADP, assessments would be changed by only 1 percent to 3 percent a year. Assessments in our development were up, on average, 5 percent. Several homeowners who had not recently sold their home had increases in their assessments of over 10 percent; the highest change was an increase of 12.1 percent.
Houses that were recently sold had assessments below the actual market price. Yet, under the ADP, everyone is supposed to pay their “fair” share.
A homeowner talked about the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and was told that “MLS listings were primarily advertisement mechanisms,” those listings were “not reliable.”
What is the recourse for the homeowners?
Matthew Clark, Monmouth County’s tax administrator and the architect of the ADP, told a local newspaper that he “expects appeals to drop off as the ADP progresses and residents become more confident that their assessments are accurate.”
By these criteria, the ADP has been a failure. We are not confident that our assessment is correct. We are not confident in the township’s data for comparable homes. We are not confident in the ADP. We expect that we have to appeal our tax assessments year after year. The emperor has no clothes, the ADP is losing its credibility.