Saratoga County

Grant to cover cost of county studies

Area county governments will share in $3.6 million in state grants available to study ways to stream
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Area county governments will share in $3.6 million in state grants available to study ways to streamline tax collection and assessments, according to an announcement from the office of Gov. David Paterson.

About 40 New York counties applied to research two initiatives: one is for a countywide database for tax collection and enforcement and the other is for studying property assessment on a countywide basis.

Albany, Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties will each receive an initial $25,000 to study a county-based assessment or coordination of assessing services. Once the study is complete and submitted to the county legislative body, these counties will receive another $25,000.

The assessed value of properties, used to determine how much property tax people pay, is typically performed on the town, village or city level in New York state.

The result is a variety of different property values depending on the community, and those values are impacted by fluctuating state equalization rates and ultimately, fluctuating taxes for property owners.

Though it’s a relatively foreign idea in New York, county-based assessment services are commonplace nationwide, according to the state. There are about 1,128 different government entities providing property assessments in New York compared to the nationwide median of 85, according to the state.

Some Montgomery County supervisors were reluctant to apply for the grant money and conduct a study because countywide assessing is considered a controversial issue.

“Towns are very reluctant to give up things,” Montgomery County Treasurer Shawn Bowerman said Wednesday.

Fulton County taxpayers have gone to the polls twice in the past 12 years and rejected countywide assessment proposals, Fulton County Administrative Officer and Board of Supervisors Clerk Jon Stead said.

“I think people are always apprehensive about change,” Stead said.

Literature from the state Office of Real Property Services suggests taxpayers could save money through implementing a centralized tax collection system.

Currently, taxpayers have to go to different places to pay their school and county property taxes.

A centralized system with supporting software making it accessible on the Internet could lead to fewer errors, reduced spending on people to manage the system and improve rates of collection, according to the state ORPS.

Stead said such a system might make tax collection more efficient and easier for taxpayers themselves.

“Any of the locations you might go to pay your taxes would be able to give you all the information you needed,” Stead said.

Albany, Fulton and Montgomery counties will receive an initial $25,000 to study purchase and operation of a centralized database for assessments. Once the study is complete, these counties can access up to $25,000 to get the system up and running, according to the state ORPS.

Categories: Schenectady County

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