Trenton – Townhall “Tax revolt” Meeting
Rates don’t match reality :
Trenton business owners and residents question tactics used to reevaluate city properties
Trenton police stood watch outside as tension filled the air as about 60 business owners vented their frustration at a town hall meeting held at the Tropical Family Restaurant @ Centre St and Lalor st. The meeting was called by City council members Marge Caldwell Wilson, and George Muschal, to address the recent tax hikes on city business owners.
Councilmembers stated Mayor Jackson was invited but declined the invitation.
Justin Lamicella, Chief Appraiser from Appraisal Systems Inc. (ASI tax appraisal), The company that conducted the recent reevaluation was on hand to answer questions. Most business owners felt they were not getting straight answers from the appraisal firm.
Many business owners claimed the appraisal company used deceptive tactics to evaluate their property.
Bessie Reyes of Parker Ave. said her taxes went from $44,000 to $160,000 on vacant lots that she owns and that the appraisal company claimed in a letter she had paved lots when in fact they were just dirt and stone. She asked “can you answer how that happened ?” Lamicella replied “can you repeat the question?” which caused sarcastic laughter from the room.
EC Bradley, owner of the Candlelight Lounge, stated he never received any notification and at one point got up and walked out of the meeting saying “this is bull!” as Lamicella danced around questions.
A laundromat owner from Cleveland Avenue told the appraiser the city says my property is worth $168,000 get someone to give me that kind of money I’ll sell it today.
Several times during the meeting councilmembers Muschal & Wilson asked the frustrated business owners to stay calm as the meeting was in progress.
Most of the business owners and residents said they never received any notice or had anyone come through their property to inspect prior to the tax hike.
Michael Forker of Division Street said he received a letter from the appraisal company that said his property had two bathrooms, a finished basement and a modern kitchen. Forker stated “my kitchen is over 40 years old I have one dated bathroom and an unfinished basement.”
Many owners echoed the same type complaints saying the appraisal company used exaggerated estimates.
Rena Urglavitch, said her Calhoun Street properties taxes more than doubled from $1100. to $5000. for one building and from $3800. to $9000. on two vacant lots She urged other property owners to get together to look for possible legal remedies.
Joyce Young of Joyce’s deli of Centre Street shared her tax bill that shows an increase of nearly $3000 per quarter, “I have children who I am trying to put through college,we cannot afford this kind of increase.”
Dave Kish, owner of Tom’s Auto and Nicks Auto, said “who’s coming behind us to pay these taxes”
Councilmembers Caldwell Wilson & Muschal asked the mayor if there could be a moratorium on the taxes until January, so they can get things straightened out and give the businesses a chance to be better prepared for the increase.
They were told by Jackson it would have to be approved by the State and County and he would look into it because it is a legal issue.
South Ward business owner John McManaman said many residential property owners saw their taxes go down, meanwhile business owners taxes increased and it appears they did this on the backs of the Businesses. He called for an investigation of the Jackson administration and Appraisal Systems Inc. to see if there was any wrong doing. His comments drew cheers from the angry audience.
Bernard McMillan of Trenton, who has a good understanding of the tax rates, was on hand to offer help in answering questions from concerned residents
said “The rates don’t match the reality” McMillan can be reached at Rivervue1622@gmail.com.
Several of the residents thanked the council members for their efforts to try to bring some clarity to the situation.
The residents were told they had missed the deadline for an appeal for this year but to prepare themselves for next year. Owners can file tax appeals from February through April 2018.