What is Equalized Valuation?
Equalized Valuation is the market value of all the (taxable) property in a town. It is updated every year by the county tax assessor and is used to apportion county taxes and, theoretically, school aid.
(see note at bottom for how Equalized Valuation is calculated)
Implications for State Aid
The formula for Equalization Aid is:
Adequacy Budget - Local Fair Share = Equalization Aid
So, if a district had an Adequacy Budget of $80 million and a Local Fair Share of $60 million, it would receive $20 million in Equalization Aid, since $80 million - $60 million = $20 million.
If a district's Local Fair Share exceeds its Adequacy Budget, it does not receive Equalization Aid. 45% of NJ districts are not supposed to receive Equalization Aid in 2018-19.
The formula for Local Fair Share for 2018-19 is:
(Equalized Valuation x 0.013828828) / 2 + (Aggregate Income x 0.046200477) / 2
0.7% of Equalized Valuation + 2.3% of Aggregate Income
So, if a district gains $100 million in Equalized Valuation, that alone would increase its Local Fair Share by $690,000. If a district gains $500 million in Equalized Valuation, that alone would increase its Local Fair Share by $3.45 million. (assuming no change in Aggregate Income)
Jersey City has the largest Equalized Valuation in New Jersey, so I will use it as a concrete example.
Between Tax Year 2018 and Tax Year 2019, Jersey City gained $5.6 billion in Equalized Valuation. That $5.6 billion gain will cause its Local Fair Share to increase by $38.7 million to about $430 million. Since Jersey City is overaided by $170.6 million for 2018-19, that means its excess aid for 2019-20 will be $209 million. (not counting the growth in Aggregate Income which will further increase the Local Fair Share)
Jersey City's massive $5.6 billion growth in Equalized Valuation is growth of 20%. It means that Jersey City's school tax rate will FALL to 0.36% ($124,367,357 out of $34,014,551,210.)
For underaided districts, the increase in Equalized Valuation does not have an impact, since it only changes the money they are theoretically due. Newark's $1.2 billion gain in Equalized Valuation will translate into an $8.5 million loss in Equalization Aid. Since Newark is underaided by $130 million anyway, the loss in Equalization Aid is theoretical.
Theoretical Equalization Aid Changes for Twelve Largest Districts in NJ Based on Changes in Equalized Valuation.
The Broad View
The State's total Equalized Valuation grew from $1,242,801,663,665 to $1,288,305,163,962, a one year net increase of $45 billion, or 3.7%, which actually exceeds inflation. However, the median town's gain was only 2.2%, since large portions of the state's total gain are concentrated in a few cities, with Jersey City gaining $5.6 billion and Newark gaining $1.2 billion.
Here is the change, county by county:
The $10 Billion Club
The towns with Equalized Valuations above $10 billion are, with their change in ranking from last year:
1. Jersey City, $34,014,551,210 (unchanged)
2. Edison, $17,369,327,293 (unchanged)
4. Newark, $17,311,594,311 (unchanged)
5. Toms River, $15,838,934,146 (unchanged)
6. Jersey City's PILOTed property, estimate at $12-$13 billion.
7. Ocean City, $12,499,744,267 (unchanged)
8. Woodbridge, $12,096,056,828 (plus 1)
9. Brick, $11,187,561,088 (plus 1)
10. Middletown, $11,110,150,917 (minus 2)
13. Lakewood, $10,738,156,516 (plus 2)
11. Millburn, $10,591,406,653 (minus 1)
12. Franklin Township, $10,556,664,931 (minus 1)
13. Wayne Township, $10,291,011,176 (newcomer to $10 billion club)
Changes for NJ's Big Cities
The most important story of changes in Equalized Valuation is Jersey City's growth. Jersey City has grown from having barely 1% of NJ's total Equalized Valuation in the 1990s to having 2.81% of NJ's total Equalized Valuation in tax year 2019.
I maintain my projection that Jersey City will no longer qualify for Equalization Aid in 6-7 years.
- The Divergent Fates of NJ's Big Cities
- 2016 Equalized Valuations Out (for tax year 2017)
- Biggest Real Estate Gains, Losses in NJ
- Two Cheers for County Taxes!
- New Jersey and Its Neighbors Job Growth, County by County
- 2017 Changes in Equalized Valuation: the Urban Core Grows
How is Equalized Valuation determined?
Equalized Valuation is determined by calculating the ratio of sales prices to a town's official assessment for its own local taxes. If sale prices are, on average, 110% of properties's official assessments, then Equalized Valuation would equal 110% of a town's total official assessment. If sale prices are 93% of official assessment, then Equalized Valuation would equal 93% of a town's total official assessment.
Because Equalized Valuation based on a ratio of sale prices to official assessment, a town's refusal to do a reval does not affect Equalized Valuation.
Contrary to assertions from Sen. Mike Doherty and the Toms River Board of Education, Jersey City's decades-long refusal to do a reval did not distort its state aid since JC's Equalized Valuation constantly grew along with its real estate market. Jersey City's state aid was distorted by Adjustment Aid and PILOTing, not the lack of a reval.
If a town's Local Fair Share exceeds its Adequacy Budget, a change in Equalized Valuation has no theoretical impact on state aid at all, since it doesn't matter if a Local Fair Share exceeds Adequacy Budget by 5% or 150%. Equalization Aid is $0 in either case.
Note: Equalized Valuation is not the same thing as the aggregate assessed value, which is the sum of all the individual assessments on properties and will not reflect real market value if the reval was not done recently. Assessed values are only used for a town's internal tax apportionment.