The lakefront residents of Kitchell Lake are not the only aggrieved parties in town. We're being slammed here at Pinecliff Lake as well. My 839 square foot, one bedroom log cabin sitting on a 5,445 square foot lot with 58 lakefront feet has been reassessed at $245,600, up from the previous assessment of $87,100. My taxes will go up 52% percent My building is newly assessed at $58,100, but the .12 acre lot is now assessed at $187,500. This is impossible.
I met with Brian Townsend, the tax assessor for West Milford, who proceeded to lecture me for an hour and a half about his job and the accuracy of these assessments and basically how a layman like myself couldn't handle the complexities in understanding that if I received relief, the taxes on some other property in town would have to be raised so that equanimity could be achieved. He advised me against getting a lawyer and against entering into a class action suit with neighbors because the County doesn't allow that. The one positive note he gave was to definitely hire private assessors to represent us.
When I was able to get in a word, I told him I was there to seek his help as an advocate to the county for us. He was quite taken aback and said he had never thought of his job as being an "advocate." He said he certainly wasn't my adversary, but that "advocate" was a concept that obviously threw him. I guess he has forgotten during his 20 plus years in the job that it's my taxes, the taxes of my neighbors, in fact, the taxes of all of us in West Milford that pay his salary. As our employee, I would think that "advocate" would be the first definition in his job description. We need help, we need it before May 1 and we need it badly.
Some of us have written to our governor -- the one who ran on a platform of reining in taxes. I urge all of you in my situation to do so as well. I don't know about you, but a 52 percent tax increase is unconscionable.
Too bad our town representative refuses to help.
Don Bearden West Milford