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Grapevine: Newark's got appeal

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The city of Newark has been forced to appeal many of the new assessments made by the firm it hired to oversee its recent property tax revaluation, a step that sources said is not entirely unusual, but is its only option after considering late challenges from property owners.

Some property owners started to receive notices early this month that the city sought to lower the assessments, sources said. The changes followed informal hearings in which some taxpayers argued for relief before the city tax assessor and the revaluation consultant, with the city later concluding the assessments were too high.

But many of the meetings took place after March 1, when the city had been required to file its new assessments with Essex County, according to Michael Schneck, a Livingston-based property tax attorney. That means "the assessor is appealing its own assessments," he said, because "the only way to make any changes at this point is to file an appeal."

"It's unusual in the sense that we normally have these adjustments made on the books without a filing," he said. "Because of the size of Newark and the amount of line items that they have, they ran out of time to administratively make the change on the tax record, and they needed to file an appeal in order to change it."

Property tax appeals for Newark had to be filed by May 1, a deadline that's typically of great importance to property owners. It was not immediately clear how many appeals the city had filed.

Inspecting Parsons contract

The recent announcement that the state would extend its motor vehicle inspections contract with Parsons Corp. for another three years marked the latest chapter in a relationship plagued with a wave of hurdles.

Parsons began overseeing state vehicle inspections in 2000 under Christie Whitman, but early software problems and resulting delays left drivers queued up to resemble the gas lines of the 1970s. That left the company — as well as the governor — with black eyes, as drivers raged and media documented each misstep along the way.

The firm turned to Michael Turner, a lobbyist now with Burton Trent Public Affairs, to rescue the deal amid the public backlash.

In 2001, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim McGreevey ran on the promise of nixing the Parsons contract. Instead, Turner helped secure two one-year extensions. Then-Gov. Richard Codey, filling in after McGreevey resigned, signed a third one-year extension, as well.

Parsons managed to secure a new five-year contract in 2008. But in 2010, Chris Christie announced a plan to end mechanical vehicle inspections. Turner negotiated an amended deal with the state, one that offered a projected savings of $17 million.

As 2013 unfolded, Parsons faced new hurdles. Christie openly toyed with the notion of outsourcing all inspections to local mechanics, and a report by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services questioned whether the $17 million savings materialized, though both the company and MVC say it did.

But while negotiations went down to the wire, Turner and Parsons convinced the state to execute all three one-year options at once, inking the deal May 3, just five days before the existing contract would have ended. The new deal saves the state $1.2 million annually.

In a prepared statement, Turner said when Christie asked the company for its "best and most creative solutions to help them control spending and improve efficiencies for New Jersey taxpayers, we responded."

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at sharonw@njbiz.com.

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Grapevine: Newark's got appeal

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Latest News

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The city of Newark has been forced to appeal many of the new assessments made by the firm it hired to oversee its recent property tax revaluation, a step that sources said is not entirely unusual, but is its only option after considering late challenges from property owners.

Some property owners started to receive notices early this month that the city sought to lower the assessments, sources said. The changes followed informal hearings in which some taxpayers argued for relief before the city tax assessor and the revaluation consultant, with the city later concluding the assessments were too high.

But many of the meetings took place after March 1, when the city had been required to file its new assessments with Essex County, according to Michael Schneck, a Livingston-based property tax attorney. That means "the assessor is appealing its own assessments," he said, because "the only way to make any changes at this point is to file an appeal."

"It's unusual in the sense that we normally have these adjustments made on the books without a filing," he said. "Because of the size of Newark and the amount of line items that they have, they ran out of time to administratively make the change on the tax record, and they needed to file an appeal in order to change it."

Property tax appeals for Newark had to be filed by May 1, a deadline that's typically of great importance to property owners. It was not immediately clear how many appeals the city had filed.

Inspecting Parsons contract

The recent announcement that the state would extend its motor vehicle inspections contract with Parsons Corp. for another three years marked the latest chapter in a relationship plagued with a wave of hurdles.

Parsons began overseeing state vehicle inspections in 2000 under Christie Whitman, but early software problems and resulting delays left drivers queued up to resemble the gas lines of the 1970s. That left the company — as well as the governor — with black eyes, as drivers raged and media documented each misstep along the way.

The firm turned to Michael Turner, a lobbyist now with Burton Trent Public Affairs, to rescue the deal amid the public backlash.

In 2001, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim McGreevey ran on the promise of nixing the Parsons contract. Instead, Turner helped secure two one-year extensions. Then-Gov. Richard Codey, filling in after McGreevey resigned, signed a third one-year extension, as well.

Parsons managed to secure a new five-year contract in 2008. But in 2010, Chris Christie announced a plan to end mechanical vehicle inspections. Turner negotiated an amended deal with the state, one that offered a projected savings of $17 million.

As 2013 unfolded, Parsons faced new hurdles. Christie openly toyed with the notion of outsourcing all inspections to local mechanics, and a report by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services questioned whether the $17 million savings materialized, though both the company and MVC say it did.

But while negotiations went down to the wire, Turner and Parsons convinced the state to execute all three one-year options at once, inking the deal May 3, just five days before the existing contract would have ended. The new deal saves the state $1.2 million annually.

In a prepared statement, Turner said when Christie asked the company for its "best and most creative solutions to help them control spending and improve efficiencies for New Jersey taxpayers, we responded."

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at sharonw@njbiz.com.

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