By Lauren Wanko
An empty lot is all that’s left of Scott Edrington’s Ortley Beach home. Everything was lost to Superstorm Sandy. The Ocean County resident knew his property was recently reassessed, so he braced for the estimated third quarter tax bill.
“I was dreading the tax bill and it came true,” he said.
It’s about $5,238. That’s over $2,500 more then Edrington paid for quarters 1 and 2 of this year. Ortley Beach is part of Toms River. The township tax assessor declined our request for an on-camera interview, but tells NJTV News that after Sandy there were significant reductions in assessments for the 2013 tax year since the superstorm devastated the community. But for the 2014 tax year, there was a general increase in assessed values in Toms River Township based on reconstruction and property sales there post Sandy, says the tax assessor. And since the first and second quarter tax bills are estimated based on the prior year’s bill, homeowners are essentially paying the majority of their 2014 property taxes in quarters 3 and 4.
“All these towns are under the gun. They have a lot of expenses. It just feels like most people feel that we’ve been hit hard, some worse then others. It just feels like a slap in the face,” Edrington said.
Before Sandy, Edrington paid about $19,000 to $20,000 a year in taxes for his oceanfront property and home. After Sandy, his taxes were reduced to $10,800. There’s about a 5 percent increase in Toms River’s tax rate from 2013 to 2014. And Edrington expects to pay about $16,000 for this year. He says he’s not shocked by the increase, but given the amount of work still yet to be done in Ortley Beach, he would have preferred his tax reduction remain intact this year. The storm victim’s surrounded by many empty lots.
“Most people did have a substantial jump in their taxes and if you’re not living here and using it, it hurts even more,” he said.
Edrington hopes to begin rebuilding his home on his property by next year, but he worries what his property taxes will be after he constructs his new home.
“Once you put a decent home here and a new home, the tax rate stays the same. It’s gonna be painful,” he said.
Edrington dipped into savings to the pay the taxes.
Meantime Edrington will continue to live with family in the hopes of one day returning here to a new home.