The city’s tax office came under fire last week for improperly assessing taxes on an empty lot on 12th Avenue after an assessor stumbled upon a soon-to-be-built image of a two family home on the vacant property.
“What it highlights is that the system is broken to the degree that you can assess an empty lot,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman. An online map look up of the property shows a vacant lot littered with plastic bottles and bags yet the assessor still assumed there was a freshly built home on the land.
“I really find this amusing, how the assessor came up with the valuation of this building,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, reading off a letter from the city’s sole tax assessor Charles Parmelli. The letter states, “We discovered an “MLS” describing a new two family dwelling being offered for sale at 45 12th Avenue.”
“We relied on Multiple Listing Services instead of going out doing an in-person assessment, doing proper measurements, reviewing the property,” commented Morris, who stated he was troubled by the tax assessor’s employment of the internet to determine home values.
“What’s more troubling is that they based their assessment based on a value of the offering price, that’s not a completed sell. There’s no guarantee the property is going to sell at whatever the offering price is: it may sell higher, it may sell lower,” said Morris. “Market value assessments are supposed to be based on comparable sell — keyword is sell!”
“If this is not evidence of incompetence, I don’t know what is,” said McKoy. “This shows you we have a fundamentally broken system, and whomever is doing this needs to go do something else because this is not what they’re cut out to do.”
McKoy said he liked the assessor’s overzealous attitude to tax new properties, but at least the assessor should very the property’s existence. “He was surfing the web and he saw a picture of a house to be built. He goes ‘oh, a new house in Paterson, we ought to tax it’,” mimicked McKoy. “I like that attitude, but verify it first.”
Tax assessors need to get off their backs and start visiting properties rather than sitting in their comfy chairs and surfing the internet, said Ruby Cotton, the 4th Ward councilwoman. “They’re just sitting at them desks for too long,” said Cotton.
The vacant property was taxed an extra $5,896.86, according to city records. “Who signed off on that change?” asked McKoy. “How did this change get to be on the tax roll? Somebody had to create a transaction and somebody had to approve it.”
McKoy asked who approved the change. Charles Thomas, the city’s business administrated said, it was Anthony Zambrano, the city’s finance director.
“The finance director,” responded Thomas.
“He should have asked questions,” said McKoy.
McKoy asked the business administrator for an audit of the office. “This is shoddy work,” said McKoy. “This is embarrassing.”
A resolution is present before the council seeking a vote to purge taxes on the property that was wrongly assessed by the tax office. McKoy has tabled the matter until he sees the finance director and the tax assessor address his concerns during the next workshop meeting.
McKoy wants a complete answer from the tax office. “I would like to know the expanded explanation for this action,” said McKoy, who asked the clerk to send invitation to officials in the tax office. “We need a full explanation as to how this occurred,” said McKoy.