During Tuesday evening’s (Aug. 21) Lawrence Township Council meeting, an ordinance was introduced that, if approved, will allow the township to pay the cost of its county-ordered township-wide property revaluation over a five-year period.
The ordinance – which will have a public hearing next month before council members vote whether or not to approve it – will authorize a “special emergency appropriation” of $800,000, allowing the township to hire a firm to revaluate all properties in the township except for Quaker Bridge Mall and its four “anchor” stores (J.C. Penney, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s and Sears).
Those retail properties will be revaluated through a separate professional services contract, the cost of which would also be covered by the special $800,000 appropriation.
“Local budget law provides for what you have before you, a special emergency authorization, that will allow the payback over a five-year period of the cost of certain statutory operations. One of those is a revaluation of property in a municipality when it is in fact ordered by a county board of taxation. Lawrence Township has been ordered to conduct a revaluation of all property in Lawrence Township,” Krawczun advised council members Tuesday night.
“This appropriation would provide funding. The amount would have to be paid over each of the next five years, beginning in budget year 2013. And I want to point out, we had included this in our estimates when we so we were cognizant that this would be a factor for 2013,” Krawczun continued.
On Aug. 15, the township opened five sealed bids that were submitted by firms vying for the contract to conduct the revaluation. Those bids, ranging from approximately $730,000 to $1.02 million, are in the process of being reviewed for compliance with the township’s bid specifications.
“This $800,000 would provide funding for the reval company, which is in excess of $700,000,” Krawczun further explained at Tuesday’s meeting. “It will also provide funding for a separate professional services contract for the revaluing of the mall and the four anchors. And then there will be a small amount left for hourly rates that we may be obligated to pay under the bid to the reval company in the event there is appeal work that they have to represent us for at the county board.
“This ordinance will need a second reading at the September meeting. At that time, once this ordinance is adopted, [it] will provide for funding, which will then allow us to authorize the contract for the reval company, because that contract requires certification of the availability of funds,” he said. “Absent this ordinance, if we were to enter into the contract with the reval company, we would have to do what we would call a regular emergency appropriation and the full amount would have to be repaid in a single year – 2013.”
The new property assessments – and corresponding municipal tax rate adjustment – that result from the revaluation would not take effect until 2014.
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Also introduced during Tuesday’s meeting were two other ordinances, both of which will undergo a public hearing and council adoption vote at the next meeting on Sept. 4.
One of those ordinances would install a mid-block pedestrian crosswalk on Lewisville Road to link new sections of the Lawrence-Hopewell Trail that will be built on properties owned by Lawrenceville School and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
The other ordinance, if approved, would amend certain fees collected by the township, such as the charges for fire inspections and issuing of copies of marriage and birth certificates. Krawczun estimated that those fee increases would generate an additional $30,000 in revenue for the township.
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Also on Tuesday, council adopted three other ordinances, two of which amended previously-adopted bond ordinances to allow for the purchase of video surveillance equipment and related software for the township public works facility. The third, in response to a state Department of Health directive, amended the township’s administrative code concerning nuisances.
Council also awarded a $91,500 bid to Hoffman Services Inc. of Newark for the replacement of a hydraulic lift at the public works facility. Meanwhile, council rejected a bid submission concerning the purchase of a police vehicle because the bid exceeded the amount the township had appropriated for the purchase.
Copies of all the above ordinances, as well as other documents distributed at Tuesday’s meeting, can be found in the media box above. Full audio from the meeting can also be found above.