One thing was made very clear during Tuesday night’s Gloucester County Board of Supervisors meeting. The governing body is not pleased with the latest reassessment and vows to move quickly in developing ways to correct the major issues.
The meeting was continued from June 1 to Tuesday night in the colonial courthouse to give supervisors an opportunity to have open dialogue with members of the county’s Board of Equalization (BOE).
Petsworth district supervisor John Northstein didn’t mince words though in discussing his feelings on the county’s first in-house real estate assessment. "This is probably the most disturbing reassessment I’ve known in Gloucester County," Northstein said. "I don’t remember ever having so many people so upset with the process."
He said he felt that the assessment process "cannot be corrected quickly enough" and that "there are some disturbed people in Gloucester County."
Northstein said he is confident though, that with the help of the equalization board and his fellow supervisors, the county will lean toward correcting the problem and getting the help it needs to begin that process.
"We don’t need any more like this to tear people apart," he added.
Abingdon district supervisor Christian "Buddy" Rilee brought up the BOE’s discussion in its report about looking at other localities’ models that seem to be more precise. BOE member Danny Stuck said that the BOE did look into some other models, but questioned whether the county would be better off tweaking its current model or spending the money to switch to something completely different.
At-large supervisor Michelle Ressler said she hadn’t had as many complaints about the current reassessment as the one completed in 2005-2006. She said that she thought this was because many people’s property values decreased more than they had anticipated.
However, Ressler said the same issue lies under the complaints. "You put bad data in and you get bad data out," she said.
Ressler suggested the county may want to find a way to physically visit every single piece of property, instead of the estimated 15 percent of properties visited by the reassessment team this past year, before it invests in a completely new model. "How do we go about doing that," she asked. "Do we hire an outside source?"
At-large supervisor Louise Theberge was concerned that in bringing an outside source, consistency may differ from that of the in-house assessors. She agreed that the focus should be shifted to visiting older parcels rather than the newer ones that are automatically placed in the system.
York district supervisor Carter Borden asked, "How did we arrive at fair market value … Shouldn’t the county tell its citizens how we arrive at fair market value?"
Stuck said that a new statute will be initiated this week stating that if the citizen asks, the methodology behind coming up with the fair market value will be presented to that citizen or to the circuit court prior to his or her appeal with the BOE.
BOE member Marshall Cook made several points, including stating that the county spent approximately $1.2 million on the latest reassessment; and that with the economy as it is now, there are not likely to be many more sales in the next 18 months (when the next general reassessment is scheduled) than at the present time.
"Since we know it takes longer to get data, let’s expand the timeframe for the next assessment to 3-4 years in order to get the data and get it correct," Cook said.
"We’re trying too quickly to move this into motion," he added. "You can’t do something this great in a two-year period of time."
The board will begin discussing the long-range plans to help improve the next reassessment at its meeting Tuesday night in the colonial courthouse.