The following was submitted by Toms River Councilman Mo Hill:
Every summer Toms River mails out property tax bills for the last two quarters of the present year and first two quarters of the next calendar year. The bill represents 3 separate taxes- the municipal tax rate (30 percent), the school tax rate (48 percent) and the county tax rate (22 percent).
This year’s tax bills were heavily impacted by Superstorm Sandy on a number of fronts. First there was the devastation and subsequent debris removal which is ongoing resulting in increased overtime for the police department and public works employees. The second effect of the storm was the decrease in ratable as a result of the destruction mostly in Ward 1 which had a 36.85 percent decrease in assessed evaluation. The tax assessor re-evaluated over 12,500 properties and adjusted approximately 10,000 assessments.
The reduction in assessed evaluation reflected the destruction to the improvements or homes. The losses ranged anywhere from 5 percent to 100 percent. There were some re-evaluations in Wards 2 and 4 but that resulted in less than a 1 percent change in assessments. Property values in Ward 3 remained unchanged. The decrease in assessed values reflected a 20 percent decrease in the township’s ratable base.
Although the total amount to be raised by taxes went down by $5 million (from $65 million in 2012 to $60 million in 2013) the loss of 20 percent of the ratable base translated to a $12 million (20 percent of $60 million) in revenues.
Although we received a $15.5 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) federal funds and the school district received $12.5 million in federal funding this only covered essential service costs related to the storm. The school budget’s amount to be raised by taxation for 2013/2014 school year is approximately $113 million (a reduction from last year of $14.3 million) which leaves a shortfall of $22.6 million (20 percent of $113 million) due to the loss of ratables. Even though 62 percent of the taxpayers in Toms River will experience a reduction in their property taxes in 2013, these two factors coupled with an increase of 8 cents in the county tax rate led to a significant increase for a small percentage of taxpayers not affected by the storm.
In 2005 Toms River received $12.2 million in municipal state aid and $69.1 million in school aid. In 2012 Toms River received $9.2 million in municipal aid a reduction of $3 million since 2005 and the state municipal aid for 2013 was unchanged despite the storm. The state school aid over the last 8 years has increased only moderately to $70.3 million.
This is compared with Camden (population 77,000 which is 13,500 less than Toms River) which in 2005 received approximately $68 million in municipal aid and received $109.7 million in state aid in 2012. In addition the Camden school district received an additional $326 million in state school aid whereas the entire 2013/2014 budget for the Toms River Regional School District which has approximately 17,000 students was only $208 million.
Once again the State Senate and Assembly have failed to treat the residents of Toms River and the Jersey Shore equitably particularly following the destruction from Superstorm Sandy. It is estimated that it will take between 3 and 5 years to recover and rebuild following the storm. The appropriate action by the Senate and Assembly leadership should have been to support and financially assist Toms River and the towns on the Jersey Shore affected by the Superstorm. Clearly that has NOT been the case.