From the Towns: what is property tax assessment?

Dan Keough

I’m Dan Keough, and I serve as the Hopewell Township Tax Assessor. My responsibilities are primarily to determine the value of properties throughout the Township, making sure residents receive appropriate and fair valuations for tax purposes. The entire Hopewell Valley community has struggled due to the pandemic over the past year, and our office has been limited in our contact with the public. We have made a tremendous effort to create inventive solutions to continue our work. As a public officer, I thought it important to share what we are doing now, and plan to do in the future, to serve the public.

Even prior to the pandemic, the Township had prioritized information sharing. To that end, each department and the public has access to SDL software, which can be found at https://www.hopewelltwp.org/155/Building-Construction. This is a very helpful tool that allows permit filing, the monitoring of those filings, service and OPRA requests, and more. I have been the Hopewell Township Assessor for only three years, and this software has been invaluable to me for the retrieval of permit history, which allow me to determine the improvements and changes that have been made to a property. The current condition of each property, coupled with its permit history and other information, is how we determine current value on a property.

It’s important to stress that accurate assessment of property in New Jersey is a foundation of our society. It determines the fair property tax each member of the community pays and the services each member receives. This foundation is as old as the country. When a member of the Hopewell Museum community brought by the tax lists for the Township from the 1920s and 30s, I was amazed to see how much change has occurred over the past 100 years. Looking at maps from that same time and comparing them to the Hopewell History book, it is clear the impact families, many of them first members of the Valley and founders of the United States, had and continue to have on Hopewell history.

Just like any house, the foundation of each property assessment needs to be continually reevaluated. The last full Township revaluation was in 2006. Each year assessments are reviewed, appeals solicited, and corrections are made. During the years following the last revaluation, some in our community struggled financially due to the economic turmoil of the time, and property values were affected as well. At that time our office was proactive in appropriately adjusting assessments across the Township, as was the County. Along with the Mercer County Tax Board, I have continued that approach.

Despite the struggles of the early 2000s and our current crisis, there are signs of positive economic growth today, especially in the residential areas. The lockdowns that occurred over the past year were especially hard on people living in urban areas, and we are the beneficiaries of an historically unparalleled flight from those areas to open space communities like Hopewell Township.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t share that as positively as the residential sector has been performing, the commercial space has not. It is in a state of transition. It is too soon to determine what the future will hold for these spaces, but we will continue the work of ensuring that everyone in Hopewell Township has a fair value for their property and pays only their fair share of taxes. Our new technologies, and openness to residents’ ideas, will help us monitor the growth of the Township while maintaining the community we all love.

Dan can be reached at dkeough@hopewelltwp.org or 609-537-0222.

Submitted by Hopewell Township

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