After almost three months alone on the dais, P.G. Waxman, commissioner on the Ocean County Board of Taxation, has been joined by a second member. Nicholas Montenegro, an attorney from Point Pleasant, was sworn into office today by retired Superior Court Judge James D. Clyne. After the oath, Montenegro took his seat as the second commissioner on the seven-member panel. The board hears property tax appeals from residents living in the county’s 33 municipalities, acting as a pseudo-judicial body.”He cleared his calendar for the next four months,” quipped Waxman (seen in photo above), who was sworn in today for a second, five-year term on the tax board.
The board faces a daunting workload that includes hearing the appeals of 14,128 cases in 2009. By comparison, Bergen County with the second-highest number of appeals and twice Ocean County’s population has just 8,000 cases this year.
As the lone commissioner since March, Waxman could hear appeals with the exception of those appeals in his hometown of Lakewood but was barred by guidelines set forth from the state Attorney General’s from rendering rulings on his own.
That brought work in the county tax office to a grinding halt.
Montenegro said he hopes his appointment will help, as he and Waxman await the swearing in of three other appointees in June.
“Hopefully, if we go to seven, we’ll be able to adequately handle the appeals,” he said.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine makes appointments to county tax boards with the advice and consent of the state Senate. But due to a variety of political issues and a rather rapid succession of departures from attrition and resignations, the Ocean County board was down to two members beginning last summer. After Commissioner Tony Graziano resigned in March over protest to the situation, Waxman found himself in the unprecedented position of being the only surviving member of the board.
The appointments, which are intended to be part-time, come with an annual salary of about $20,000. Since the controversy unfolded last month, Corzine has since appointed a full complement to the board which the Senate Judiciary Committee has promised county officials it will fast-track.
“Our pleas have been heard in the governor’s office,” said Freeholder Director John C. Bartlett Jr., who got into a public spat with Corzine’s office over the issue. “(Waxman) will be able to talk to himself and not violate the Sunshine Act. … We thank the governor for hearing some of the pleas that have come from Ocean County.”
County Tax Administrator L. Ozzie Vituscka said the high number of tax appeals in Ocean reflects its diligent efforts to ensure that property assessments reflect true worth.