Three communities undertaking reassessment projects are seeing massive increases to their total assessed values, one of them by more than $300 million. But that is normal when a community has not performed such a project in many years, according to a representative from the firm in charge of the projects.
GAR Associates, a real estate appraisal and consulting firm with offices in Williamsville and Clifton Park, is performing reassessment projects in the city of Ogdensburg in St. Lawrence County, the Jefferson County town of Clayton and the Steuben County city of Corning. The company has been performing reassessment projects across the state for 50 years, according to one of its partners, Dave M. Barnett.
In Ogdensburg, the tentative assessment roll indicates that assessment values for 3,799 parcels have jumped $85,234,495 to $367,029,780. There are only four more parcels this year than last. The project was not to cost more than $275,000, according to a resolution adopted by the city council.
In the city of Corning, the assessment values jumped $168,759,149 to a total of $764,175,188, according to its tentative assessment roll for 3,996 parcels.
Out of the three communities, the town of Clayton is seeing the largest increase in the town’s assessed value. Clayton has a tentative assessment roll of $1,081,948,683, an increase of $351,364,484 for 3,996 parcels.
Mr. Barnett said that during these reassessment projects, there are significant increases to the total assessment figures mostly due to a long period of time between the reassessments. The town of Clayton last performed a reassessment project in 2008.
“Usually the larger total aggregate dollar amount increases are when there has been a number of years before a project is done,” he said. “There’s always large increases because you are doing it on a comprehensive level.”
The firm could find “uncaptured inventory” that may have not been on the rolls, there may be been an increase in construction or building within its limits, or it may be impacted by the housing market.
“I’m not shocked by the increases,” Mr. Barnett said. “When you don’t do a project for a number of years, obviously there have been significant changes in the market. More recently there has been some appreciation post-pandemic. I would say that’s in varying degrees but it has been state-wide.”
The process of reassessment of communities, or mass appraisals, have limitations, he said.
The reassessments are done from the exterior and “assumptions” are ultimately made.
“In order to try to get to the ultimate goal, which is to get to a fair and equitable assessment, is providing a property owner’s, number one, an element of transparency to look at information, be accessible so they can call and have pretty clear-cut process,” Mr. Barnett said.
While there have been a number of property owners in Clayton and Ogdensburg who are unhappy with their reassessment, Mr. Barnett contends that it’s a small number.
“There are a very small percentage of property owners that aren’t happy. In other words, there are people who saw reductions or relatively no change in tax liability. Now quite frankly, you rarely hear from them because they didn’t see an impact on their tax liability and their taxes aren’t being raised,” Mr. Barnett said.
He said that informal review process allows property owners and GAR Associates to make necessary changes based on miscalculations during the reassessment. The next step is to go before their community’s Board of Assessment Review and make their case.
The town of Clayton’s Board of Assessment Review is preparing for its Grievance Day, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 24 at the Clayton Fire Department. Justin Taylor, chairman of Clayton’s Board of Assessment Review, said that as of Friday the board has received approximately 40 applications and expects more to come in as the date approaches.
“As we get them the clerks are checking them for accuracy, calling and scheduling them for an appointment. Technically you can just walk in with the Board of Assessment Review on the 24th and be heard but we like to do schedules and we like to make sure all the paperwork is in order and stuff like that,” Mr. Taylor said.
The goal, Mr. Taylor said, is to have the final assessment roll completed by July 1 and to the county by June 15 to allow for any stipulations, or agreements made between the assessor and the property owner between May 1 and May 24, to be processed.
Mr. Taylor has been on the Board of Assessment Review since 2016. Prior to that, he was the town supervisor when Clayton last underwent a reassessment. He recalled the negative reaction to the assessment increases then.
“I think that’s just human nature,” he said. “Nobody likes to see their taxes go up which is related to their assessment. My response to that is people who have concerns about how much their taxes are need to take that up with the taxing entities.”
Mr. Taylor said that the assessment is the foundation but the taxing entity — whether it’s the school, city, town, county or fire district — controls the rate at which taxes are ultimately paid.
He added that it’s important to look at the “whole picture” in regards to reassessments. In 2008, Mr. Taylor said 45% of the parcel values went up, 45% of the parcels went down and 10% stayed the same. The town’s tax rate went from $2 per $1,000 of assessed value to $1.20 per $1,000.
“So when people got their tax bills they were actually kind of surprised because they didn’t get a big tax increase,” he recalled.
A letter to residents from Clayton Town Supervisor Lance Peterson in March reassured people that despite the rise of assessments, taxes would not increase.
“As property values go up the Town tax rate will go down. How far down is yet to be determined. That calculation can not be determined until the final Tax roll is filed and the Town has prepared its budget. I can however assure you for instance that if your assessment doubled your Town taxes will not double, as a matter of fact I am very confident they will remain close to the same and in some cases they could possibly even go down,” Mr. Peterson wrote. He said that it was clear that property values have gone up in the town of Clayton and that “as community leaders we would be doing a poor job if they did not.”
“My job is to keep the taxes from going up at the Town level. We have done a good job with that over the past four years and will continue to do so,” he wrote, adding that his own property assessment went up $213,000.
Like Clayton, Ogdensburg has moved toward the grievance process after the informal review process was completed in late April. City Manager Mohideen F. Buharie said that a total of 684 property owners filed informal review applications with GAR Associates, and a total 471, or 68% had their assessments reduced by the firm. That left 213 homeowners whose assessments were not changed.
Property owners in Ogdensburg will still be able to fight their assessments at the Board of Assessment Review’s Grievance Day from 10 a.m. to noon, 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. June 13 at City Hall.
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