Posts Tagged 'property taxes'

PILOTs – Board of Ed wants (deserves) a share

somsd-logo-b-rAs part of the 2015/16 school district budget process, South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education members discussed requesting that the local municipal governments of South Orange and Maplewood make contributions from housing development PILOTs.

Towns negotiate PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) with developers to encourage development. Often after 5, 10 or 20 years, the PILOTs ramp to a full property tax rate.  Municipalities receive annual payments in such arrangements, but school districts don’t.

Members of the Board of Ed say that increasing enrollment from the developments puts pressure on expenses, particularly staffing, and makes it difficult to budget under the state-mandated 2% cap.

Board member, Beth Daugherty said that she wanted the district administration to prepare a report that shows the number of students per residential development in South Orange and Maplewood and whether those properties are paying a PILOT vs. being on the tax rolls. Many Board members have stated that they really have to look at all potential revenue sources and not just keep cutting expenses to balance their budgets.

Property Taxes and the Marylawn property in South Orange

marylawnThe town of South Orange plans to put the Marylawn property on the tax rolls.

Marylawn of the Oranges Academy, 445 Scotland Road, closed in 2013 after operating as a private Catholic school for girls. The property is owned by the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth and includes the school building and the Graves mansion, built in 1900.

The property is no longer being used for a religious school, so the trustees believe it should lose its tax-exempt status.  The property owners, the Sisters of Charity may be more motivated to sell the property once it is subject to property taxes.

Seton Hall University made an offer in March on the property but the proposal was withdrawn for a number of reasons.  After discovering that the property would not be purchased for use by another tax-exempt party, village officials put collecting property taxes on the table.

On one hand, the sisters are seeking a non-conforming use such as a developer who could build fairly large multi-unit building(s).  On the other, the Montrose Historical Society is hoping a developer will update and ‘save’ the historical property.  The town is in the middle and is hoping for a developer who could fit 5 to 7 single family buildings on the property that would be a conforming use (not require re-zoning).  For more details see the alternative press link.  For more background see my previous post from 2013.

Deadline for Property Tax Appeals




April 1 is the deadline for property tax appeals.   Here is the equation: Your tax assessment X municipal tax rate = your tax bill.

Your municipality assigns a town-wide rate that is not negotiable.  However, if you feel that your tax assessment is significantly high compared to other homes of comparable size, location and condition than you may have a chance at a successful tax appeal.

Contact a local expert –



Marylawn of the Oranges saga – To be continued


There was an eagerly anticipated meeting at South Orange townhall on wednesday evening.  A packed house watched a special commission preside over a discussion about the ongoing Marylawn of Oranges drama between the interested parties.  The Sisters of Christian Charity (Marylawn) applied for a demolition permit awhile back for the convent building on their property and then sued the town after a lengthy delay alleging the town has interfered in the demolition and made the sale of the property more difficult.

The attorney for Marylawn/The Sisters’ presented three ‘witnesses’ for their case.  They were cross-examined by attorney Janine Bauer who represented a group of objectors that appeared to be spearheaded by the Montrose Historical Society.

Sister Joan Repka, who represented the Sisters of Christian Charity claimed that it was never their intent to demolish the building, but that financial pressures have brought them to this brink, especially since the school closed.

On this blog, I usually make an effort to be as objective as I can and not overly opinionated.  That being said, real estate broker, Tom Cupo was the second witness and explained how he marketed the Sisters’ property.  In my humble opinion he made a number of remarks that showed his utter contempt and lack of knowledge about South Orange and home values here.  He also showed his lack of ‘advocacy’ to the Sisters by stating that they didn’t feel it was necessary to list it on the MLS and he preferred to only use other avenues such as Loopnet, Newspaper ads and his network of developers.  Listing the property on the MLS in several capacities (residential, commercial, land…) would have exposed it to a much larger clientele than just the developers who ended up backing out of plans to build (100-unit and more) residential buildings.

Some of Cupo’s remarks included ‘nobody from places like Livingston or Montclair’ would want to move to South Orange.  Well I’ve actually sold homes to people in South Orange and Maplewood who came from Montclair.  He also referred to the Montrose neighborhood as Melrose.

There was another (in my opinion) more reasoned witness who was an expert on ‘historical neighborhoods.’  There was also discussion of the appraisal values and offer values (numbers).

As the issues were not all presented and I suspect Bauer will have more to say on behalf of the town’s residents, the situation is “TO BE CONTINUED” on August 14.  I am very much looking forward to a just conclusion to this.  I believe the Sisters should be able to sell their property and get out of their sticky situation in a fair way but also that the town and its’ residents have a right to weigh in on what type of use for this large and critically located property is ‘highest and best.’

Three New members of the South Orange Board of Trustees

board of trustees

Sheena Collum, Steven Schnall and Walter Clarke have won election to the South Orange Board of Trustees replacing outgoing members, Michael Goldberg, Nancy Gould and Janine Bauer.  Their campaign stressed ‘the positive’ and hopefully will bring an infusion of energy, enthusiasm and efficiency to the town.

Schnall’s area of expertise is business and he plans to increase municipal efficiency, minimize spending and control taxes.

Clarke has a great record with the town in areas of environmental and energy policy.  He brought electric vehicle chargers to town, helped bring about the Rahway River cleanup and was instrumental in the certification of South Orange in the Sustainable Jersey program.

Collum has made her mark in public safety, community emergency response and public information.

For more info and for tallies: