With five members of the City Council voting in favor and three against the city finally passed its 2014 budget after seven months, during a special meeting on Tuesday.
Property taxes are set to go up by more than $400. The city increased taxes by $937.49 from the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1st, 2013. The tax office collected $480.70 in extra tax on top of existing bill for a property valued at $350,000 during the last two quarters: July-December 2013.
The next two remaining quarters will split $456.79 or $228 per a quarter until the new fiscal year begins in July. Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, already predicts more tax increases to come in the new fiscal year. Officials had said last week the increase was $223; however, that figure was calculated without taking into account school and county taxes.
“After July first there will be another tax bill that will come out, and we may see additional tax increase within that bill,” said Morris. “We don’t want to give the false impression to tax payers that they’re going to be done after two payments.”
Last night’s budget summary displayed the county tax: $47 million for this year, while the previous year that tax was $39 million, marking an increase of $7 million. County Open Space was $704,150 it has come down to $660,186, resulting in a savings of $43,964, according to city document.
Council members complained the city was disproportionately overtaxed by the county because of the city’s inflated home values, a consequence of a property re-evaluation during peak real estate prices in 2007.
Morris suggested the city file a lawsuit against the county to correct the unfair taxation. Morris said the county assumes the city has some $8.4 billion worth of taxable properties, more than any other town in the entire county; however, that figure is based on an outdated and badly done property re-evaluation during peak market prices. “What the county is saying, all the properties in Paterson is worth $8.4 billion, whereas all the properties in Wayne is worth $5.1 billion,” said Morris. “It becomes incumbent that we force the hand of these other municipalities, and that they must do a re-val to bring their properties up to true market values, so that everybody is paying their fair share.”
Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman, asked for an explanation of the county tax increase. Anthony Zambrano, finance director, stated that the county tax has not much increased. Zambrano said every year, due to the large number of tax appeals the county grants, the city is issued a credit of about $7 million – it was issued the credit last year. Once that credit is subtracted from the total amount, the county tax is set to be reduced. That tax credit does not come until July.
“I expect that we should get a credit this July again,” said Zambrano. “How much? I do not know. There should be a credit.”
“If we get a credit from the county it might offset the increase of the property tax,” said Akhtaruzzaman. Zambrano said it would, but Morris affirmed a small reduction will not have as large an impact to halt a tax increase in July.
School taxes increased by $99,810 from $39.3 million last year to $39.4 million in 2014.
With Rigo Rodriguez, councilman at-large, having left early, three council members voted against the final $245,725,734 budget. Morris voted against the final budget as did Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, and Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. Voting in favor of the budget were: Akhtaruzzaman, Anthony Davis, the 1st Ward councilman; Kenneth McDaniel, councilman at-large; William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman; and Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman.
“We need to ensure that every dollar we spend is efficiently spent,” said McDaniel prior to his vote. “We need to show that we’re actively pursuing every avenue to get these numbers down so they don’t have to repeatedly increase taxation on our citizens.”
Morris echoing McDaniel said he did not see any plans in place to rectify the constant tax increases every year. “I don’t see any heavy lifting in this budget. I see no strategy for economic development or bringing new ratables,” said Morris. “Only thing I do see is the way you solve the city’s fisical problems is go to the tax payer – each and every time.”