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$581M Drop for 2013 Hopatcong Property Values

Housing crash, recession to blame for 29-percent drop, appraisal firm says.

The assessed value of property in Hopatcong dropped $581 million, according to a preliminary report on the current reassessment being conducted by Appraisal Systems, Inc.

The company has been meeting individually with residents following the mailing of new property assessments earlier this month. The new values will take effect in August.

In a preliminary tax impact statement, Appraisal Systems estimated the 2013 assessed value of the borough’s 7,128 taxable items at $1.415 billion, down from the 2012 assessment of $1.996 billion.

The estimate said the assessed value of the borough’s 6,077 residential properties dropped from $1.875 billion in 2012 to $1.320 billion in 2013.

That change reduced the average residential assessment from $308,590 to $217,139 for 2013, a drop of $91,451 per home or 29.6 percent.

The projected tax rate for the borough, including all school, county and municipal taxes, was estimated at 3.04 per $100 of assessed value. That is an increase of 71 cents per $100 from the 2012 tax rate of $2.155.

The average residential property tax bill is expected to drop in 2013.

A resident with a home assessed at the borough average should see a property tax drop of $48.73 cents in 2013, to $6,601, provided there are no budget increases, Appraisal Systems said.

The municipal budget and Hopatcong School District budgets will be completed in the spring. Both bodies are required by state law to hold any budget increase to less than 2 percent.

The borough took on the reassessment last year to stem the tide of tax appeals that followed the 2007-08 housing market crash and the effects of a 2008 revaluation.

Tax Assessor Theresa DePierro said previously that the borough faced 360 tax appeals last year.

Borough Attorney John Ursin explained that the Sussex County tax board informed the borough last year that because of falling market values for homes, the town’s ratio of market values to assessed values had reached 114 percent, which in the past three years triggered a landslide of tax appeals filed by homeowners and businesses.

Ursin said the $300,000 cost for the reassessment will help the borough potentially avoid $150,000 or more in costs annually for the next couple of years to respond to tax appeals. That potential cost would be added to what the borough has already spent on more than 500 appeals in the past three years, he said.

The 2008 revaluation set the borough’s net property worth at $2.076 billion, but the 2008-09 recession and the housing crisis slowly eroded that total, Mayor Sylvia Petillo said in the fall.

The result was that assessed values exceeded the market (sales) values for Hopatcong properties, triggering the wave of tax appeals.

Hopatcong is one of seven Sussex County municipalities where Appraisal  Systems is conducting reassessment or revaluations this year.

In Green Township, the net value of the township’s property value is projected to drop $135 million in 2013, down from $554.8 million. The total estimated tax rate for 2013 is $3.179 per $100, up from $2.351.

In Byram, the 2013 total property value is expected to drop $164.5 million, to $939.8 million. The estimated tax rate is expected to rise from 2.636 in 2012 to $3.159 in 2013.

Hopatcong’s residential properties provide the majority of taxes. Appraisal Systems preliminary tax impact showed that of a total of 7,128 taxable properties in the borough, 6,077 are residential.

There are 40 farm properties assessed at a total of $2.82 million; 79 commercial properties, valued at $71.16 million; and 932 vacant properties valued at $20.3 million.

Resident Michelle Guttenberger pointed to that imbalance to suggest that homeowners are being hit with higher taxes because large privately held land trusts are not being taxed enough.

She specifically targeted Hudson Farm, a 3,800-acre former estate in Hopatcong and Andover that is owned as a land trust and charitable foundation. The charitable entity was created in 1921.

According to the borough’s open space plan, Hudson Farm has 409 acres in Hopatcong that functions as a hunting and shooting estate for both game and for clay pigeons. The property is both farm and commercially assessed and paid approximately $89,000 in property taxes in 2012.

Guttenberger said the borough has “missed opportunities” to broaden its tax base through its support of Hudson Farm’s land trust status, which supports a commercial business, and failure to aggressively pursue economic development, especially in the River Styx section.

Borough officials just recently announced that the Highlands Commission has granted a town center designation for River Styx, which will allow for planning to lead to future development of that section. The designation has triggered interest from developers, officials said this month.

Baumerjet February 22, 2013 at 11:29 PM
BeachBum, In Sparta, the land was not "Vacant." It was owned by the same family that used to have a farmstand on old route 15 that until 3 years ago was on the site of the Townsquare off the extention of Newton/Sparta Road & Route 15 Northbound. About River Styx Road (speculation based on needed space): You need to understand that I am talking about the businesses off of Lakeside Boulevard whose rear constructs fall against River Styx Road & West River Styx Road. Watcher; I said "former" Jewish Community Center because no Sabath has been run in the Temple for almost 4-years & they are renting the space out on Sundays to the Hopatcong Protestant Church - For the space. No Jewish Temple would allow another religion to have services there.
The Watcher February 23, 2013 at 01:11 AM
@Baumerjet The Jewish center does not rent space to "the Hopatcong Protestant Church" it rents to the mayor's church which is the Byram Bay church (they are not Protestant" and they are apparently unaffiliated, and I noticed you did not address the DEP cleanup of the River Styx area. Michele (and others) have written extensively on these subjects
Observer February 23, 2013 at 06:29 PM
You can count on the BOE to go for the full 2% increase, here's the evidence. http://www.njherald.com/story/21292805/hopatcong-school-board-considers-budget-cuts-to-fill-1m-shortfall
Michele Guttenberger February 24, 2013 at 02:36 AM
Now that everyone got a glimpse of the tax payout deal on "Hardly Taxed" Farms Bermuda LTD from my short standing blog - do you Hopatcong Folks have the $$ to attend their favorite PSS charity event . Dot forget the Key Club member of "Hardly Taxed" Farms Bermuda LTD is on the Board of Trustees to this charity. Dig deep into your pockets folks and find the $$ to attend this local charity event held in one of Hopatcong's Beautifully Renovated 13 room Historical Mansions . Don't wait for a Boy Scout Benefit to view this estate - don't think that they have a Boy Scout event planned for many years to come at this place. "Open that Bottle Night. Sponsorship packages are available at a variety of levels, ranging from “Reserve” at $1,500 to “Oenophile” at $10,000. Tickets for Open That Bottle Night - $300 per person or $500 per couple. " Remember its for a good cause - probably supports the locals who lost their homes. Let's support our poor lost neighbors while you can. You can attend it. The Mayor did with her hubby. They attended this event as a sponsorship under their own INC business name. It seems they weren't impacted by the economy and were generous donors. But if you can't afford it, you can always take a hike to get your charity $$ .
Michele Guttenberger February 24, 2013 at 02:58 AM
Oh Laker don't be such a tease on a blog they can no longer see. Here is my insufferable bigoted quote folks: " ...maybe you can also enlighten me by telling me that being generous to the very wealthy has really helped the economy of our community. Either way you couldn’t damage our tax ratable base any worse than the tax give aways being done by our current leaders. It appears Hopatcong’s current chiefs have a kinship to Manhattan’s old Native American Chiefs who traded their lands in exchange for trinkets. And you know the moral ending of that story or best yet the old adage that history does repeat itself. This time it is with a different group of wealthy white men." My Bad for picking on the those poor wealthy white shoe boys of Wall St. Even Bernie Madoff had a big heart for charity.
Michele Guttenberger February 24, 2013 at 03:42 AM
This is HARDLY Taxed with an L - Not Hardy Taxed without the L . There is a big distinction. The Mayor wants you to believe that they are the hardy tax farms as in robust. But I know you over taxed folks have done the math and that it is hardly as in barely Taxed Farms. And if you are a small storefront business owner you also know the Pro Shop inside the Kids Shooting School is not being taxed as a retail storefront. Too bad they don't ask that Griffin and Howe move their Rifle and pro shop to the new designated business district of River Styx. That could be a start to the Mayor's economic development plan. Maybe Hopatcong's attorney can talk to them. I hear he has a close relationship with all the principals. Griffin and Howe can still continue to conduct their commercial private shooting lessons at the Kid's shooting school for their Adult Safari training clientele. Maybe they can also move their helipad to the River Styx location too and then we can have a taxi business that could shuttle them to the Hudson Farms Club. Make the Helipad close to Pavinci's so they can walk over their and have a few drinks and a bite to eat before they chopper out. That would also bring additional high end business to River Styx.
The Watcher February 24, 2013 at 06:00 AM
@Michele you say the mayor and her husband attended the affair? Isn't that a conflict of interest? Maybe the mayor could bring her business to the River Styx area that would help lower taxes.
Michele Guttenberger February 24, 2013 at 03:36 PM
The Police Dept. in Hopatcong has been a very dynamic and groundbreaking force which has put Hopatcong on the map. Such as Roscoe and helping to form CERT which got positive national news attention especially during and after Sandy. I had a personal conversation with a key PD leader. This person felt that consolidation of our PD into a regional PD was in our future. So along with Health Dept., and Senior Center, a county run PD is in our future too. Hopatcong does not have the tax revenue nor future tax ratable base to expand support to these $$$ services. Soon Municipal run will be a thing of the past. Everything will be regionalized. But with the Goldman Sachs affiliates embedded in our town, I am sure they will help to hasten this process with their lust for rural lake and wooded properties. Foreclosures are a future gold mine for beautiful prime recreational property. All they have to do is sit and wait for their future new recreational home development close to their private sports clubs at drastically reduced real estate prices when the middle class has vacated the area. A beautiful recreational location that is little over an hour away from the NY Metro area especially if you are traveling by helicopter. Goodbye little starter home and cottage dwellers it was good while it lasted.
Michele Guttenberger February 24, 2013 at 05:38 PM
The Watcher - I don't think this was a conflict of interest for the Mayor since I am sure it only helped their INC business. But what it does show was the Level of Business Class her and her hubby are in since sponsorships went as high as $10K. Seems the Petillo's were the big generous players at this PSS charity table. The Mayors sponsored events for the villagers of Hopatcong is - let them eat cake at the Municipal center. But in this case the free cake came out the taxpayers wallets not their private INC one.
The Watcher February 24, 2013 at 07:02 PM
@Michele Wouldn't the conflict of interest come from the mayor and council voting on things that affect "hardly taxed farms" and the town lawyer being "hardly taxed farms" lawyer and advising the mayor and council? Isn't it also a conflict if the taxpayers pay Ursin (town lawyer) and he fights them in tax court? Isn't that the same as fighting your employer (taxpayers pay his fees) and getting paid on both win or lose? Seems he can't lose money wise. Any light on this subject? Interested in your opinion maybe a blog?
Emily February 24, 2013 at 09:51 PM
Michelle what does Rosco have to do with anything. If you recall we lost him almost a year ago. Oh girl just keep those fingers tap dancing across your key board. Again your just a gloom and doomer and really not saying anything that can be used. Following is still a few that's why nothing will come of it. This discussion has been going on forever and you have gotten nowhere with it. All your doing is waiting for someone to come up with a master plan and then fly in on their coat tails. really Michelle with all sincerity I cannot fault you for that,but it is futile. Great conversation, but lacks substance. Your not using it. I'm not mad at you I just don't know where your going with it. I like living here and no matter where you go you still have to pay high taxes and put up with the political garbage. Maybe you could give John Bainer a call he seems to be alot of the problem in this country, not our mayor and council.
Observer February 24, 2013 at 09:53 PM
@Michelle, my Muse. Sadly, I suspect the only "high end" business likely to surface in that devastated part of town will be through the entrepreneurial efforts of Hopatcong's resident drug dealers. To the credit of HPD, they seem to be chipping away at the problem but like an iceberg, most of the menace goes unseen.
The Watcher February 24, 2013 at 11:08 PM
@Emily perhaps you should re-read the comment. Michele is complementing the police force and Roscoe unless you have a problem with that but not with the mayor and council. BTW no one WOULD expect you to have a problem with the mayor and council we know you enjoy the cake.
Emily February 25, 2013 at 03:00 AM
. Watcher, perhaps you should read between the lines. Why is she complimenting people in a town that she resents so much. Personel gains. I just don't like the idea that she puts Rosco in her statements. Has nothing to do with anything she's trying to un-do in this town I resent her doing that. The cake you mentioned I had with the mayor and council was on the night of the memorial for Rosco. I believe neither you or Michelle, the person complimenting the PD, was in attendance on that night. Where was your concern and caring attitude then. This isn't going to work, so adios end of story. I plan to stay in Hopatcong and really appreciate that we have a home even though sometimes it's difficult. I will find the good in that and count my blessings. You should try that, very heartwarming. well got go feed the dog and the cat and thank God for all he has given me. Night,night.
Michele Guttenberger February 25, 2013 at 04:28 AM
Mrs Luciano - Rosco, Rosco, Rosco Rosco - Night, Night
The Watcher February 25, 2013 at 04:37 AM
@Emily you are incorrect and as for the cake that was not the cake I was talking about Night Night
Emily February 25, 2013 at 01:29 PM
michele,michele,michele, please spell my name right. makes you feel good to know who I am. your arm must hurt you from patting yurself on the back so much. Now go away your a bad nightmare .Nothing has changed.jealousey has reared it's ugly head when you start bashing Hudson Guild and the mayor and anyone with money and power. so sad.. Now in order to start acting like intelligent grown-ups I have to stop responding to someone like you. Not to many people find you to be a threat to the political agenda or really listen to you. oh wait your two followers. your track record is zero. Back to the drawing board. I know I infuriate you because you sink to the lowest of low, especially with your last response. Childish at least. Have a wonderful day Michele!!!!!! I know I will.
Chrissy March 01, 2013 at 03:21 PM
I was thinking the same thing! I have lived here all my life and have not seen one farm. Unless... the plots in the community garden are now considered mini farms? ;-)
Chrissy March 01, 2013 at 03:25 PM
When the mass exodus happens with the residents then the borough and Hudson Farm can go target practicing.
Chrissy March 01, 2013 at 03:31 PM
@TheWatcher. From what I remember, the Mad House never happened because there was some toxic contamination of some sort in that area that was never cleaned up. Nothing can go there, till that issue has be rectified. And being that location is so close to the water, one wonders how this toxic contamination is affecting the ground and water.
The Watcher March 01, 2013 at 04:17 PM
@ Chrissy So why is it that the mayor and council spent money on memorial parks, streetlights, etc instead of cleaning up the area to support new business and ultimately lower taxes? Beautification is wonderful if you have the money to do it. We do not!
Chrissy March 01, 2013 at 04:40 PM
As long as they (the borough) can look out their office window and see beauty, they are satisfied. The money for the beautification and for the very expensively new playground for the kids at Modick Park were from grants. This did not come out of tax payers money. What upsets me, and many residents, is that if you drive past the center of town and off any side street, no beautification was ever considered. The park near our house (Jefferson Park) is a danger to children, and our park is very much used! We have a softball field and basketball courts that are degrading to nothing. All is completely ignored. Heck, I would have been pleased to just get some of the hand-me-down playground parts from Modick Park, and maybe some new basket ball hoops. The borough cannot see beyond their noses. Thats the bottom line.
The Watcher March 01, 2013 at 04:59 PM
@Chrissy They were NOT from grants ! That money came from them selling us out for the 180 foot towers and the HUGE substation that is going to be built. Just found out that not only do they hang off helicopters to fix the LIVE wires but they are apparently going to put up the towers using helicopters. The streetlights were from a grant and they ended up costing us dearly. Your right the over 80 grand of taxpayers money they spent on the streetlights could have been used to help your park, and the buy out money could have been put to better use.
Michele Guttenberger March 02, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Yes we have farms and very lucrative farms. An ongoing property acquisition program has expanded Hudson Farm with 900-acre Westby Farm. Game birds are now raised at Westby Farm for Griffin & Howe’s seasonal hunts. During these game hunts they release 800 birds for each of these shooting sessions where Groups pay approx $1,200 - $3,000 for these half day sessions. That’s a pretty penny for shooting farm raised birds. I have never paid that much for a chicken. How does Hudson Farm affiliate businesses help the economic development of its communities? Who really benefits from the private rife training businesses embedded on this property which is open 7 days a week for business and the farms supplying birds for Griffin & Howe’s for profit and charity shooting events. Even charity events G&H still generates revenue as participant costs for the ammunition, clays and game they supply at these events plus their opened retail pro shops inside Hudson Farm properties that attendees shop at . Every charity shooting event held at Hudson Farms also benefits Griffin and Howe with captive clientele (the attendees) where G&H provides the shooting supplies such as local raised game birds. Here is a both a lucrative farming and retail business that will never add to the economic development of the surrounding communities. It only throws some cash to charities to help generate a positive image despite their opportunism of tax deductions and their NRA friendly functions
S. Coventry March 02, 2013 at 06:46 PM
@ Michele I think we have all see those birds killed on the road, now to find out that they are farm raised and never had a chance. What a shame. So Michele what you are saying is that they are making all kinds of money and that the little bit that they contribute to the town is not only minuscule but for the most part is a tax deduction? Don't they use our services (fire dept, police, etc)?
The Watcher March 03, 2013 at 03:12 AM
What makes you think that the farm is not waiting to buy up the soon to be worthless property? Personally don't think we should have the same lawyer as the farm or that the mayor and council should be attending functions at the farm, and then voting on things that affect that property, but hey they control all the boards and committees so who would know.
Michele Guttenberger March 03, 2013 at 04:51 AM
@ The Watcher your thoughts of them waiting for real estate to hit bottom to have a purchasing bonanza makes sense. Since these private club members have built their personal empire as Wall St investors Of course it also helps to have the municipal lawyer as a close ally who knows the local chiefs . Are you ready for your hiking boots?
The Watcher March 03, 2013 at 08:08 PM
Wasn't it the courthouse? Who knows what else they've bought.
Roll Back Our Tax July 10, 2013 at 07:38 PM
Watcher....they bought a lie detector machine to practice and get the statements right at these Council open public meetings. But you know something is going on behind those closed door sessions Hopatcong residents don't know about. How else can they be getting away with this web of deceit this borough has spun to give it's residents this comfortable feeling that "ALL IS WELL IN HOPATCONG". It isn't and in August everything I have been warning others about with any 7th sense and $ in their bank account that Hopatcong is NOT a good place to invest your money in real estate. You will get nothing in return and if anything become very disillusioned with the whole network of lies and corruption. The statistics won't lie and I will be back to report the foreclosures right before election time. http://hopatcong-sparta.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/foreclosures-in-hopatcong?ncid=newsltuspatc00000010
Roll Back Our Tax March 26, 2014 at 08:31 AM
The ONLY thing that didn't drop was the rate of foreclosures http://hopatcong-sparta.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/foreclosures-in-hopatcong?ncid=newsltuspatc00000010

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