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Developer, Residents Weigh A Costly Future In River Edge

Still upset about the new reassessment results, one developer is at a loss while several residents say they're considering moving.

Developer, Residents Weigh A Costly Future In River Edge

Local are not the only ones in River Edge who are still reeling from the  as one developer and a handful of residents try to decide what to do next.

Housing developer Joe Polaco was originally planning on constructing a pair of 2500-square-foot houses along Park Avenue but following the reassessment, he had to drop those plans.

"I was looking to get started but right now I'm completely shut down due to a lack of interest regarding the taxes," Polaco said. "These would have been simple houses and I'm stuck with plans and property that I can't sell. I also have a house on Madison Avenue and those taxes will be between $18-19,000 and the lack of interest there is evident. I have three properties in town that I don't know what to do with."

Polaco added that he is now looking to downsize his plans to either a pair of 1400-square-foot homes or find a way to work with the borough to construct duplexes.

The assessment by  Appraisal Systems cost the borough approximately $174,000 by  teaming up with Cresskill and Dumont to share the cost. For the past two years, the borough had been slammed with tax appeals, approximately 150 as of  and then 132 by .

But since the 83-page report was completed and residents and council members alike began receiving their new assessments, the governing body has been inundated by homeowners at each meeting.

"My family moved here four years ago and we made the decision to invest in this community and since then our taxes have more than doubled," Victor Erdos said. "My wife and I and our twins came from a 600-square-foot apartment in the city, we came into the suburbs to make our life and future and made careful decisions for the mortgage and taxes. The assessment jumps our taxes up to $24-25,000 and this puts us in the situation to push us out of our home, which I'm not sure I could sell. We don't live outside of our means."

Homeowners who are being hit the hardest by the assessment are those who recently moved into town, those who moved into newer construction or anyone who filed an appeal and received a reduction in the past. Approximately 2,000 homeowners will see a drop in their taxes but about 1,050 are expected to see a hike in their taxes. Just shy of half of those seeing an increase in taxes, 426 homeowners, will be hit the hardest with increases ranging from $1,000 or more.

Both Jennifer DePinto and Kirsten Abba have similar stories as neither is a long-time resident, each having moved to town within the past year.

DePinto and her husband moved into town eight months ago and reside on Fifth Avenue. "Our taxes went up 53% in a few weeks; I would have been crazy to buy a house with $16,000  in taxes on a main road. Eight months ago this was a dream come true, but now, if we could we'd leave River Edge tomorrow. I'm a teacher and my husband is a police officer. We moved mountains to get here because of the schools and now I wish it hadn't worked out."

Abba, who lives on Voorhis Avenue, has not done any additional work to her 1939 home which was expanded by a prior owner in 1999.

"We got a 20% increase in one year and have done nothing to the house that would impact the assessment," Abba said. "The single factor is we bought our house. In my opinion, I don't think we got what we paid for because now I would not hope to sell it for what it's worth as it's under market. I've talked to the assessor, assessment company and several attorneys and we have no recourse to appeal because our taxes are not comparable to the rest of town. You don't have million dollar properties in town, but you do have excellent schools."

Sona Damergy has lived in River Edge for 35 years and a few years ago her daughter Melanie Paxinopoulos had an opportunity to purchase a home in town, just down the street. Now they are both wondering how much longer they will stay in town.

"In 2003 there was a home down the block that was in bad condition," Damergy said. "My daughter and son-in-law were able to come in and buy the lot. In the nine years since then their taxes have doubled and now they want to leave town and put it up for sale."

The Paxinopoulos' home on a 70-by-100 lot, which had been renovated, is now assessed at $800,000 with annual taxes of $28,000.

"I've been fortunate to live and grow up in River Edge," Paxinopoulos said. "The taxes in 2003 were $5,000 and now its gone up to $21,000 and we're on one income. I should have listened to my husband five years ago to leave but the schools are great for our two kids. We couldn't sell the house for what we want because no one will pay that much in taxes for a 70-by-100 lot."

Prior to next week's Mayor and Council meeting on April 16, when Tax Assessor James Anzevino will be available to answer any additional questions from residents, members of the governing body were expected to sit down with the Bergen County Board of Taxation to discuss any available options for homeowners.

Residents can appeal their reassessment by filing a petition with the  Bergen County Board of Taxation, One Bergen County Plaza, Room 370, Hackensack by May 1.

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