Letter: Arrogant government not just in D.C. anymore
I find myself deeply saddened to discover that the arrogance of our local "public servants" is every bit as great as those national political types in D.C.
Watching Gloucester County go through the real estate reassessment process had been painful from the start. With an understaffed, underqualified department and a slap-dash, last-minute rush … the results are an embarrassment. In speaking with my neighbors and many other residents of Gloucester County, it is very clear that the valuation of real estate in the county is more arbitrary, capricious and inaccurate than it ever has been.
To make matters worse, the incompetence has been compounded by an arrogance that would make the folks in D.C. proud. I received my new assessment and was shocked to find a 35 percent increase was in the envelope. Did they ever enter the house? No. Did they measure the buildings for accurate square footages? No.
So, I filed my first appeal of the assessment on time … met with a very disinterested county employee, had a perfunctory conversation where the staffer took no notes, then received a letter a month later indicating that no change would be made to the assessment.
Next, I did some research. In a very short amount of time I found some disturbing things. The stunning disparities in these assessments is truly frightening … especially when you remember the power these people have to expropriate your property based on the numbers they come up with. Here is a sample of contiguous properties in the same neighborhood that highlights the outrageous disparity that comes from an arbitrary and capricious process:
—Land values: ranging from down -2.5 percent to up +179 percent.
—Residence values: ranging from down -32.95 percent to up +13.86 percent.
—Total assessment values: ranging from down -23.55 percent to up +76.20 percent.
Apparently, the facts of these crazy numbers and the reality of a dramatically weakened real estate market had no relevance and received no consideration. With assessments going up and down … randomly and radically … I decided to file for review by the Board of Equalization. Again, I filed on time.
And then I waited. And waited. And waited for more than a month. Finally, a letter arrived from the BOE on March 11. That letter indicated that I had been "assigned" a meeting time on March 23 at 10 a.m. The letter went on to indicate that there was "no exception" allowed to that meeting time. My request for another time was categorically denied … regardless of the very short notice. Regardless of the fact that I was scheduled to be on a business trip in San Francisco. Regardless of impossibility of attending the meeting to make my case in person.
The arrogance of these "public servants" is truly unbounded. To command that a citizen report to them at their convenience … with no consideration of the needs of the citizens they purportedly serve. Common decency demands more, to say nothing of due process.
So, unable to confront my accusers in person, I was forced to hire an attorney to represent me at this meeting. Now that I have spent the time and money hiring counsel, perhaps the next step is a class action lawsuit against Gloucester County for violation of due process, negligence, arrogance and theft of private property. Tax revolt, anyone?