GET YOUR 2014 PROPERTY REVALUATION LETTER? Did your revaluation increase your 2014 taxes? Do you think this is fair? Have you been living in your home for several years and paying the already high taxes? Live in an old house on a small plot? Retired, living on pension or Social Security? Have disabled or elderly dependents to support? Have no children in public school? ARE YOU BEING TAXED OUT OF YOUR HOME? WE ARE.

We've payed our taxes here for over 60 years, a total amount that would buy our 1920's home at the new  2014 revaluation. Since 2009 our rebates have decreased by 20%, i.e. we have already paid higher taxes for the last 4 years. Our 2014 taxes will increase 15% over the 2013 amount. We're getting the shaft, and so are you. Remember the 2012 tax hike referendum?

In 2012 the Township tried to railroad a tax hike and lost the referendum vote. It is astounding that  that some folks voted FOR the tax hike (vested interests in municipal planning?). It is disgusting that the township tried extortion by threatening to cut back our police force and charge extra for some municipal services. The  township's pension schemes and large number of pensioners still living partly off the current tax base needs revision. Expenditures from the tax pork barrel need close inspection. The reasoning that creating jobs is good for the community is outweighed by the heavy tax burden placed on taxpayers.

Why did the township abruptly cancel the $60 bulk trash pickup fee in 2012? Simple: it was already decided that they would collect (in our case and probably yours too) an extra 15% or more  one fell swoop.  IT'S TIME TO TAKE THE TOWNSHIP TO TASK, AND THE COURTROOM IS THE PLACE FOR THAT. Writing and whining to the Governor will get you nowhere. There must be some good lawyers out there who resent this enough and have the guts to spearhead a movement - you'll get enough clients to cover your costs...
Patrick January 14, 2014 at 08:05 AM
My bill went down about $700. I guess it all comes down to where you live in the Township, and actual home values in that area. And the rebates have nothing to do with Lawrence, but rather the folks in Trenton. The new tax rates don't go into effect until July of 2014. Of course, if you disagree with your assessment, you can as always challenge it with the County. And to be fair, township gets a quarter, the county a quarter and schools about half. Not sure what you think a lawyer can do for you besides a reassessment, and as stated before. But, even if the township lowered taxes 10% (unlikely), it would have a very small impact on you tax bill.. less than $200 over a year. a drop in the bucket on a $7500 tax bill.
Titus Painter January 14, 2014 at 05:06 PM
Yes, let's be FAIR: Graduated tax hikes or reductions would have been a more fair means of adjusting taxes. I guarantee you that the end result of this revaluation will provide very nice revenues for local gov'ts - there us no way the downward adjustments are equal in proportion to the upward hikes. The county and state didn't even talk about gradual abatements for the over-assessed or gradual increases for the under-assessed. No attention was paid to the age distribution or average income in any of the districts, even though that data is easily gotten from the State's income tax rolls. Age and household income are the determinants of whether taxpayers can stay in their homes, or have to sell just to reap whatever equity they might have left after any debts are paid off. Seems you are a younger person living in a newer building, and not in the "village" between Cold Soil and Lawr-Pennington Rd. The bottom line for many of us older residents is that incomes drop with age, and although you may not think rebates have nothing to do with Lawrence, they do. The state rebate programs force townships to accept reductions in tax payments from residents. You see this from your own tax bills wherein at least one of the quarterly bills is adjusted down by the tax relief determined by the State. In our family's case, we are all eligible for both the Homestead Rebate, and the NJ Property Tax Reimbursement because of ages. Before 2009 our rebates were about $2,000. In the end of 2009, the oldest family member passed away and one income was lost as well as one-third of the rebate total. Since then, rebates have been lowered across the board because of the State's financial problems. This simply means that since February 2010 we have been paying more taxes to the township - to the tune of almost 20% more for the last 4 years. Our total tax burden for 2014 will be a little over one-third of our household income. So, imagine going into a year in which you will be forced to draw from your retirement savings just to stay in your own home. If you are still raising a family and plan to stay in your current home until retirement, your plans might be wrecked even sooner than that by the out-of-control tax machines at work in NJ.
Guarda Sikh January 14, 2014 at 05:33 PM
We are facing the same problem after almost 40 years in this township. We are seriously considering renting our home out, because we would still have the property's equity, as well as gain extra income even after taxes and a smaller mortgage in some other town or state. It is certain that our close-by neighbors would not like tenants as neighbors, but that would not stop us. Still in the process of doing calculations and working with a realtor. We've have enough of watching our once-comfortable retirement getting turned into "can we afford this/that" and "do we repair the upstairs bathroom or just use the downstairs bath" and "sorry, son, we can't afford to fly out to see you and the grandkids this year or any time in the future". All because of taxes that total more than the 1975 purchase price of our home + the total mortgage interest paid. Now any readers out there who are not yet retired know what decisions you will be forced to make, probably long before you hit 65 and while your children are still in college. This situation is only going to go from bad to worse.
Patrick January 14, 2014 at 09:02 PM
wait what happened in 2009? was there some sort of major shift in NJ state government? hmm. Yes, the state cut funding of those funds. As for a gradual shift in tax, would seem on the surface to be great. problem is that for years the folks that could afford the legal fees had their assessments lowered, businesses did it year to year. The document is on the county's website. Fact is, Lawrence is a deal in terms of property taxes vs services. I moved here because the rates are among the best in the state that has an express train to NYC. The bigger question is why are the county's rates spiking. It is easy to point the finger at the township, it is our home after all. But consider the spikes in rates as you go north. In Metuchen a 3 bedroom two bath home will run you over $450,000, Taxes about 10k. That same home in Lawrence is about 150k less, and taxes 2.5k less. My point is not that these raises aren't difficult on people. They are. It is out to hand statewide, and it isn't bumbling council member or the town manager or anyone local. They are just reacting the best they can. As I stated above, the worst they will hit for that 350k house is a couple hundred dollars locally. Perhaps you might want to put the problem in a great context. maybe look at that date, 2009, and ask what happened around then.
Max R January 15, 2014 at 07:44 AM
So property taxes stared to become unbearable in 2009? I think the issue goes back much further. Perhaps 2009 is when "rebates" started to be scaled back or when "state aid" started to be scaled back. But guess what? "Rebates" and "State aid" are just us getting our own confiscated tax money back, that is after it had been legally skimmed by the government, and then in many instances stolen by despicable government thieves (both Republican and Democrat - look to Hamilton and Trenton for recent examples) before coming back to us in the form of rebates. How ridiculous! Comparing Lawrence to Metuchen is all fine and good, but who the hell wants to live in Metuchen anyway? Finally, for those of you who feel good that your taxes went down, all it means is that you've been paying a higher share of the tax burden than you should have for the last 10 or so years due to the town's waiting 19 years to do a revaluation. Nobody should be feeling good about their results, up or down. Of course, since you can't change the past (and you can't get your money back), you might as well have had your taxes lowered moving forward.
08648 January 16, 2014 at 12:54 AM
My taxes went down. Another family member in a diff part of l'ville also went down... So not all is bad here.
Titus Painter January 16, 2014 at 12:03 PM
08648: We're happy that you're happy, but when your tax is lowered, our taxes have to make up the slack. Many of the people getting the big hikes have lived here for decades and have been on fixed incomes for several years. If you lived in a building purchased, say, before 1970, you would have gotten quite a jolt upwards too. And you would not be so complacent.
08648 January 16, 2014 at 12:30 PM
Titus: maybe you were underpaying for years and the adjustments are rectifying that? There are two sides to every coin. Further, if your fixed income cannot account for increasing expenses maybe you need to reevaluate your overall financial picture. Taxes go up, cost of living goes up, healthcare expenses go up... But you have choices and options, we all do. I choose to budget, save and be realistic about what it will cost to support my lifestyle today and in the future.
Titus Painter January 16, 2014 at 02:59 PM
08648: Underpaying? We paid everything that was due with all annual tax rate increases for 62 years. A grand total of over 100,000. We are now up to almost $8,000. When the new hike takes effect in July 2014 we will be almost at $10,000. To stay in Lawrenceville we will have to fork out close to 1/3 of our income that is available after federal and state taxes. We find this new state of affairs a callous slap in the faces of all older lifelong owners. No consideration is made in the tax court of your age and income. Bottom line is pay up or sell your home. If you consider that a home evaluated in 2014 at $300,000 has already cost its residents over $100,000 during their tenancy, then selling the property will net only 2/3 of the appraised value. Not only that, we are getting some information from nearby elderly neighbors whose properties and buildings are smaller than ours, and they are getting the SAME HIKE as we are. Fair? No. This whole "revaluation" process is a legal way to conduct piracy,
Thomas Sweet January 16, 2014 at 07:56 PM
Titus: We are in agreement. Let me add that the complacency of L-ville taxpayers is unfathomable. When the township and county can't "budget" on their revenues, they just swoop in and grab more because so many people just shut up and pay up. For example, when 08648 suggests "choices and options" such as budgeting, that's blowing off the financial problems this revaluation is creating for some folks. Many older persons on fixed incomes don't have options that would not deteriorate their already reduced standards of living and health. They already paid their dues in years of income and property taxes. They already paid for public schooling of their own children and those of everyone else. "Budgeting" implies that there's some financial wiggle room. This is not the case for my elderly mother, who received her revaluation notice dropping a whopping $1,300 tax increase, on a small property on a narrow street. Who is to pay this? Her aging children who are in their 50s & 60s and already looking for wiggle room in their retirement budgets because their children are not through college yet and their mortgages & equity loans are not yet paid off? Is that fair? There is NOTHING fair about the taxation systems in this country at any level, and the hardest hit are Romney's 47% "Takers", among whom is my mother who now only gets her own small pension and my deceased father's social security, and should not have to sell her home because of taxation. Everyone in this township and county had the opportunity to change the political manpower slates who are dug in like ticks, but they just couldn't get out of their complacancy/helplessness/oh-well-it's-going-to-happen-anyway-so-why-bother-trying-to-change-anything mode. Anyone who is not incensed by the idea of being forced to tighten their budget and shave down their hard-earned standard of living is welcome to the reward of their complacency.
Titus Painter January 16, 2014 at 09:45 PM
EVERYONE: Let me direct your attention back to the huge "calming" B-S campaign in 2013. A deliberately intensive effort was made to hold many meetings between township officials, the appraisers, and property owners, They served up an opiate formula designed to soothe the savage taxpaying beast. You may or may not have gone to any of these meetings, or even gotten anything more than highlights about them in the local papers. If not, then you need to go back and read at least the minimal coverage in the local papers. (Here's a question for you: Why did we even have an Assessor who doesn't even live amongst us?). http://www.trentonian.com/article/TT/20130213/NEWS01/130219854 - ' “The revaluation program seeks to spread the tax burden equitably within a municipality,” said Jeff Acolia, Lawrence Assessor who is working with the county to spearhead the initiative....For the first time in my life, I’m experiencing this revaluation scare. I don’t know what the reval company is going to put on my assessment and so I feel for everyone in this room, I’m going through the same thing right now,” admitted Acolia, who does not live in Lawrence Township but is experiencing a revaluation program at his Jersey Shore home.' Keep in mind that phrase 'spread the tax burden equitably" ignores two salient issues: 1. Anyone who purchased a recently-built (within the last decade) home, did so knowing exactly what their taxes would be and that they could afford to pay. They also knew that there would always be predictable annual increases. Getting a cut might be due them, but: If someone gets a $700 decrease, and your own under-assessed older property gets a $1,400 increase, then you are being made to pay the other guy's shortfall. THAT'S NOT "FAIR". 2. The state, county and municipality make no consideration whatsoever about elder homeowners whose financial and health situations can quickly become dire, nor for folks with heavy but bearable mortgages being forced to make life-changing adjustments - and both these things will happen. Seems the official opiate-distribution program worked, because there's not much talk about acting to do something before July 2014. Once the reval precedent has been embedded without resistance, there will be another, and another, and another. One of our neighbors who vamoosed out of Princeton to escape the terrible taxation there, is now faced with an upward bump that will put them darned close to what they were paying up in P-town. Guess their children might not be able to continue in their private schools, because Mom & Dad have a long trail to the end of the mortgage years. Guess they themselves will go into their later years much poorer and MORE DEPENDENT ON THE STATE, for God's sake. TAKE A STAND NOW OR JUST LAY DOWN AND TAKE THE BEATING.
Patrick January 16, 2014 at 10:55 PM
Titus, not sure your directing your outrage at the right folks. That tax raise from Lawrence Township in your new tax bill July 2014, is about $300. Yes every bit hurts. But that is not the lions share of your tax increase. And let's also be clear, this reassessment will not raise any new revenue to the township. It just breaks out the pie differently. You have expressed outrage over the lack of rebates and schools. Well sadly School tax is and will always be blind. You own property you pay no matter if you ever use the school system or not. The rebates have been gutted since Chris Christie came into office. Christie in his state of the state address sited our neighbors in Princeton as a shinning example of shared services. Christie said that the consolidation saved over 3 million. The actual real savings are $700,000. Add with the increase in Mercer County taxes, no one in the new Princeton is going to see any sort of tax break. Christie striped our Township to the tune of MILLIONS from energy tax rebates, and reduced funding to schools... In other words, to look fiscally responsible he has shifted the nature of the tax burden further to the County and Township. Washington hasn't helped either... Congress has let all sorts of local aid programs expire or they where just cut in things like the Sequester and the debt ceiling battles. Sure the Township could have done better with contracts in the past, could have put a lot more away in rainy day funds, not spent everything they got from the Homeland security deluge of funding post 9/11... But, what they did do was keep home values steady. We didn't become Hamilton, where when it snows, you better have your own plow... and a good mechanic cause there are a ton of potholes, and lets not go into the horrible zoning. Yes, property taxes are a huge issue. Just imagine a 40's something who gets squeezed every year, living on the same salary cause rises are never in budgets anymore, and trying to save to afford to retire and afford the very same property taxes when they retire... It is hard for EVERYONE. So lets continue to pressure the township to keep costs in line. Lets ask the County to rethink its tax structure, lets ask the state government to stop playing a shell game with funds, and level the playing field. and let's demand that the US Congress does its job. I feel bad for persons like yourself, But if you truly want relief, the township and that $300 bucks isn't going to really help you long term, now is it?
Patrick January 17, 2014 at 07:27 AM
Something else very important should be mentioned... If you feel your assessemnet is too high, you have the right to appeal with Mercer County. There is a number on your letter to call. If you feel the number given to you is not a price you could sell for today, call ASAP.
grill master January 17, 2014 at 10:48 AM
Quit belly-aching Titus Painter. We are all paying the burden of high taxes, not just you. The people of this town have spoken. They voted the same incompetent people back in to run it. If you are unhappy with that then do something about it.
Lynden Arden January 17, 2014 at 11:50 AM
What doesnt quite add up for me is people complaining about the reassessments and how they won't let the assessor in the house etc but then complaining it took overly long (19 years) to do the reassessment. Which is it? My taxes went down by close to $1500 and I was dancing in the streets last week. My wife and I were so excited our hands were red from high fiving.
Ira L. Marks January 17, 2014 at 07:28 PM
When LT residents start getting serious about electing people to Township council who not only have a strong interest in keeping township expenses low but also have the expertise to accomplish the job- then at that point taxes will be brought down to a reasonable level that everyone in the township can afford. We now have 5 Democrats in the 5 council seats. I am not aware of any Democrat in this township or this county who meets both criteria outlined above.
Thomas Sweet January 18, 2014 at 11:16 AM
grill master: do you mean that everyone should just shut their yaps and take this abuse? Yyou might think others' comments as pointless griping, but "Titus Painter" just points out issues with serious consequences. One is that the county-wide revaluation was a guaranteed way to hike many owners' taxes way, way, way beyond the mandated 2.something% per year. It is a winning bet that the twp. will scarf profits, and that the county will deny most appeals. We were already assaulted (pointed out by T. Painter) with threats of higher fees and cuts in police and other necessary services. This game has serious consequences for many people - many renters, for example, will be facing higher rents as a result of revaluation. The Senior Freeze program and Homestead Rebate will not help anyone whose taxes are raised by more than about 5%. As already pointed out by others: (1) these reimbursements were already cut back over the last 4 years, and (2) a 2014 rise in RE tax will obliterate these benefits anyway. T. Painter's suggestion that a gradual adjustment up/down for all is sensible and much better for everyone - just not for the pork-barrel townships.
Thomas Sweet January 18, 2014 at 11:33 AM
Lynden Arden: Your taxes are dropping almost $1,500. Our taxes are rising by almost $1,700. Simple arithmetic suggests that the twp. will profit $200. Do this 5,000 times, and the township will clear $1,000,000. With the housing growth in this township over the last 30 years, the above example is probably a gross underestimation. I will be demanding access to the database that has resulted from this taxpayer-funded revaluation, and I will persist until I get it. All of you others - whether or not your taxes were hiked or cut should do the same. All of us paid for this program, and complacency will send a signal to politicians that they can override state tax hike limits any time they want.
Thomas Sweet January 18, 2014 at 12:27 PM
Ira L. Marks: You hit the nail on the head. My belief is that people don't put all that much effort into understanding exactly for whom or what - or why - they vote. Lawrence Twp has been in the grip of the Democratic machine for far too long. We're recreating the Blagoyevich Empire. Political patronage is the disease of lazy voters, just as obesity results from poor eating choices. And remember, when all the county-wide revaluations were ordered, every single one of the 565 municipalities are members of the New Jersey State League on Municipalities, and they all supported that League's 2010 putsch to get the revaluations done. Here's the league's letter that was sent to all the mayors in October 2010: http://www.njslom.org/letters/ml100110-budget.html I will re-post this link for everyone else to digest just how knee-deep we are in political machinery that is the result of voters' choices.
Thomas Sweet January 18, 2014 at 12:44 PM
Perhaps reading this "open letter" sent to all New Jersey mayors in 2010 will help residents understand that our state's tax increase limits was overridden by a political lobby: http://www.njslom.org/letters/ml100110-budget.html Take particular note that the lawful process of tax appeals is being held up as the culprit in lowered municipal revenues. The numbers given maybe close to correct, but the rationale that a hike over 2% of any owner's taxes, along with a drop in others' is necessary is just plain baloney. Also take not that there is no mention in this lobby's letter of any committee or forum to discuss ways to cut municipal spending. Did I say spending? Yes. That's top on the list of issues deliberately ignored.
Titus Painter January 18, 2014 at 01:37 PM
grill master - A great many voters, myself included, tried to effect a change. The 2013 election results were pitiful. The large number of independent candidates on county, locality and district ballots was proof that NJ voters wanted to pluck out the ticks. Unfortunately the independent candidates took a great many votes away from the two main opponents in each area, as well as from each other. The outcomes were very skewed and the Democratic choke-hold on the NJ Assembly is proof-positive of voter laziness and "better the devil you know" attitude. There were worthy choices among the independents. Among my friends and neighbors who were vocal during the campaigns and election process, very few had bothered to look into the worthiness and professional histories of non-partisan candidates, nor had they read any resumes posted by some of them. For better or worse, the independents had no serious effect on the gubernatorial outcome.
Guarda Sikh January 18, 2014 at 02:37 PM
Thomas Sweet - Looks like we have a 50/50 chance of losing the right to appeal our taxes at some point in the future. Just read that NJLM letter at your link, then found another earlier example at that website. The scheming must have started at least as early as 2008 because here's another letter to mayors from the NJLM Executive Director citing the 2008 decline in property values, and includes a little survey about the tax appeals filed in each twp by the end of 2009: http://www.njslom.org/surveys/Sept%202%20Tax%20Board%20Appeals%20Survey.pdf Again, leveling their sights at the legal tax appeal process. Here's the disturbing thing: Property market values were grossly inflated by 2008 because mortgages were being handed out like candy bars. Homes were being emptied of their owners who lost jobs and income, and those properties were sold at deflated prices. I want to see comparisons of actual, individual property sale prices in 2009-2012 for homes that are getting a tax reduction. Just to allay my suspicion that many of them were bought at deflated recession prices and have now come up in value. In 2013 a couple of older homes nearby us sold well under their appraised values even after extensive renovations. The current scheme of leveling the playing field is full of such potholes.
WB Taylor January 18, 2014 at 04:22 PM
seeing that municipal league stuff turns my stomach thanks for posting it. I would like to know if others reading this board will comment on the way they use politicians. maybe that's simplifying what i just read at that website but i think what some of the others are saying is true. this group says it is a voluntary association but that "Since 1915, municipal officials have received assistance from the New Jersey State League of Municipalities in dealing with local government affairs. The League is a non-profit, voluntary association of municipal governments" - and then there is a long list of lawyers they name ready to step in with counsel. doesn't say if they are free of charge to the townships either. a lot of those lawyers are in princeton and a lot of lawrence residents left that town to get away from the taxes. this all bothers me a lot and i also agree this league could push the assembly to throw out the tax appeal process. then what.
WB Taylor January 18, 2014 at 04:39 PM
oh and by the way if they are really worried about the administrative and legal cost of tax appeals, it's easy to avoid getting appeals. stop raising taxes to levels people can't pay and cut expenditures. why doesn't that NJLM crowd talk about that?
WB Taylor January 18, 2014 at 04:51 PM
new jersey will start losing home owners very rapidly because their fear of higher tax is now a reality. look back in time to negative comments made in 2013 about raising taxes and ask yourselves why we have the same-old-same-old recipe of pols in town hall - http://lawrenceville.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/proposed-municipal-tax-rate-hike-needed-to-counter-ta87ec708f7c and them look at this article from a Yahoo finance news page someone posted in a comment - http://finance.yahoo.com/news/the-states-people-are-fleeing-in-2013-194007689.html
Patrick January 18, 2014 at 11:08 PM
Look.. Property taxes are high because it is easy. People who own houses are easy to tax. They own a home, so they typically have the capital to absorb these tax increases. That said... property tax appeals will never go away. Some council of municipalities will never carry the clout of lawyers making bank on doing these every year for businesses and wealthy property owned. As for NJ losing its population... NJ is the most transient state in the union. United moving reported that twice as many people moved out then moved in in the last year. That said... Lawrence stands in a very positive position if payed well. Our tax rate for quality homes is much lower then other bedroom communities. Sure we may be an outer bed room community, but we have Hamilton station. Express trains can get us into NYC in an hour. Look at similar communities in NY State and Connecticut... Homes are valued at 3x ours... and their taxes are twice ours. so I guess beyond the political back and forth, we have an aspirational question here. What is the Lawrenceville we want to be? anyway... ohh and... these tax reassessments are dollar equal. The township won't generate revenue via the reevaluation. So you can dispel the crap.
Titus Painter January 20, 2014 at 10:42 AM
PATRICK: You're not contributing much of anything to this discussion. Either (1) It appears you don't really handle on this issue, or (2) you have a vested interest in this revaluation and tax hike (contractor? public employee?). Yakking about that goes on in other states is not useful here in Lawrence. You need to show us some math to qualify the statement "dollar equal". Do you have the new assessment database generated by this reval? Also, most of the residence in Lawrence are not "bedroom" dwellers. If YOU are here as a bedroom resident, don't extrapolate your situation to the rest of us. Lastly, "aspirational" issues imply discrimination against the less income-flush residents, and particularly against the elders. Don't push your aspirations on the rest of us. Find a community that fits YOUR ideal and pay those much higher taxes, please.
Jan and Marie January 20, 2014 at 11:32 AM
to "Patrick" - WOW. Be careful of using the word "we". You think Lawrenceville is a bedroom community? A review of 22 of neighbors known personally to me reveals that only 3 are commuters. Two are escapees from NJ higher tax counties. The 3rd resident is an escapee from NYC. I have yet to hear any of these three parties complain that Lawrenceville is not what they expected, or not good enough for them. As for aspirations, no resident or group of residents has the right to impose his/their personal ideals on others. The only figure you cite that might be taken at face value is your own $700 reduction. Now that would be a hopeless aspiration for many of the rest of us.
Jan and Marie January 20, 2014 at 11:36 AM
WAKE UP! One of the reasons that the State ordered the revaluations is that the State doesn't want to distribute the Senior Freeze and Homestead Rebates any more. If this happens (and it will) then everyone - both those whose properties were assessed lower and those who were assed upwards - will lose those rebates and reimbursements. Give it a couple 2-3 years and the rebates will be taken away too.
Patrick January 20, 2014 at 11:41 AM
No Titus, I get it. And telling me to move out or that I have anymore skin in the game as you doesn't help either... Revals have been killing revenue everywhere in NJ since 2008. In 2010 alone the township lost nearly a million in revenue from revals. Half of that was from the Quaker Bridge Mall. And it is useful to understand the tax situation locally and in a broader context. And while central Jersey is a hub for many jobs, many work in Philadelphia or New York City. That may not be you, but it may be the person that buys the next home in the township. and the pie doesn't get bigger, the slices are just changed, and technically the rate is lower because of full value revals.


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