Marlboro Mayor Jonathan Hornik called for the immediate suspension of the controversial tax assessment program, Assessment Demonstration Pilot Program(ADP), in a press release issued Tuesday evening.
Responding to an “investigate report” in the Asbury Park Press that alleges cronyism, nepotism and ethics violations on the part of Monmouth County Tax Administrator Matt Clark, former Tax Commissioner Daniel Kelly and the companies that won the contracts to provide the inspections and appraisals of all Monmouth County properties that are assessed through ADP, Hornik said, “I am heartened by the recent call by the Asbury Park Press for an investigation of the Monmouth County Tax Assessment Demonstration Pilot Program,” said Mayor Hornik. “I have been a vocal critic of this program since its inception, and I expressed, in no uncertain terms, that the program did not fairly and accurately reflect market value, that it inappropriately interfered with local tax assessors and that it had a disproportionate adverse effect on residential and senior citizen property taxpayers.”
Hornik joins Freeholder John Curley in calling for ADP to be suspended and investigated.
Curley first called for the program to be suspended and for the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the program last month after he said he received an anonymous letter alleging improprieties in the program. The Tax Board rejected Curley’s call to suspend the program and the Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation, according to Michael Panter, a former Democratic Assemblyman who is one of the owners of Realty Data Systems, the technology and data collection firm that provides most of the Monmouth County property inspections used to assess the values of properties under ADP. Panter said he his firm was questioned by the Prosecutor’s Office after Curley called for an investigation.
Curley today doubled down on his call for the program to be suspended and specifically called on the Prosecutor’s Office to investigation the relationships outlined in the APP article. Panter says that the Prosecutor’s Office is already conducting such an investigation.
In his press release, Hornik said called ADP “disgraceful” and said that homeowners have lost their right to appeal their assessments.
“The program’s impact has been to expose homeowners to annual fluctuations in the real estate market, irrespective of whether their property has even been inspected, and it has effectively eliminated their right to file an appeal”, Hornik said. “Now, adding insult to injury, we find out that the motives behind this program may have been less about government policy than about
profit. It is disgraceful, and I call upon the County Tax Board to immediately suspend this program.”
Panter said that both Curley and Hornik and playing politics and seeking to get their names in the paper as they campaign for reelection.
“There is a reason they call the weeks before an election the “silly season” as candidates compete for attention,” Panter said in an email to MMM.
“Our firm has conducted over 4,000 inspections in Marlboro and received very few complaints, the majority of which were homeowner questions,” Panter said in response to Hornik’s claim that properties were not inspected. “We are averaging only 25 inspection refusals per 1,000 properties.”
Panter said that the only complaint his firm received from Hornik was regarding his own home’s inspection. Hornik’s overall property assessment went down $2,300 in 2015 and the value of his land went down $30,000, according to the Monmouth County Public Records website.
Panter said that Hornik’s claim that homeowners “effectively lost their right to appeal” was curious.
“Taxpayers can still appeal under the ADP and the annual deadline is simply earlier each year,” Panter said in his email to MMM. “This is so municipal budgets can be set after towns know their post-appeal revenue (which eliminates the need for expensive bonding to cover shortfalls).
“The beauty of the ADP is that assessments are adjusted to market annually (rather than every 7-8 years), so appeals will be less necessary. Conservatively, Monmouth taxpayers had to spend over $7 million on appeal attorneys since 2008. It’s why appeal attorneys are steadfastly against the ADP, since their profits are shifted to taxpayer savings.”
In a six page statement released on Tuesday afternoon, Panter criticized Curley for distributing a “series of false and defamatory statements” and rebutted the claims made in the APP article, point by point. Panter’s statement can be viewed here.