Township Balks at Phone Company's Exemption Claim
CenturyLink's assessment goes to zero, but for how long?
After local landline telephone company Century Link challenged its assessment under a 1997 law exempting local exchange telephone companies that serve less than 51 percent of a municipality's population, the township is taking steps to push back.
At Tuesday's Township Committee meeting, Mayor Frank DelCore said that "last fall, Century Link provided a notice to Hillsborough that they were no longer providing coverage to at least 51 percent of the township and therefore were no longer required by statue to file the return and pay property taxes in 2013."
But township officials challenged that determination, filing an appeal to the County Board of Taxation last week on the grounds sufficient evidence had not been provided to verify Century Link's dial tone and local access is less than 51 percent.
To protect the township budget, however, Century Link's $138,000 assessment was dropped to zero—just in case the court rules in the company's favor.
"Our goal remains to protect our Hillsborough taxpayers," Mayor DelCore said.
The committee also took a stand Tuesday supporting two bills in the state legislature aimed at eliminating the possibility for phone companies to use the exemption.
A statement issued by the township said the moves were the suggestion of Committeeman Carl Suraci, who reported on a court case that had challenged the 1997 legislation regarding business personal property tax paid by local telephone companies and stated that "one of the companies misinterpreted the law to their benefit, resulting in a ruling in their favor" during the Jan. 22 Township Committee meeting, when the township dropped the company's property assessment.
Personal property that is subject to assessment consists of the various types of property used to provide telephone service, such as poles, aerial cable, underground cable, buried cable, intra-building cable and conduit systems.
Suraci said "the goal is to stop the telephone companies from removing themselves from the Business Personal Property Tax."
The committee approved a resolution formally supporting A3393 and S2324, which would clarify the language defining the coverage area for a local exchange carrier with respect to the business personal property tax.
Hillsborough residents are urged to contact the respective Assembly and Senate Chairs to add the respective bills to their agenda meetings and bring the bills to the General Assembly and Senate for vote; Assemblyman Upendra J. Chivukula, Telecommunications and Utilities Chair at (732) 247-3999 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Senator Jeff Van Drew, Community and Urban Affairs Committee Chair at (609) 465-0700, (856) 765-0891 or (856) 696-7109 or senvandrew®njleg.org.