Schenectady County

Property data set for review

Assessor Patrick Mastro is now launching the last, and hardest, phase of the citywide property reval

Assessor Patrick Mastro is now launching the last, and hardest, phase of the citywide property revaluation. He will use all his new data to figure out each building’s assessment.

But even though it will be many months before residents will learn their new assessments, they can check his raw data now.

Mastro urged residents to stop by the city’s assessment office and review their data cards to make sure they are correct. The data will be on the city’s Web site this summer but can be reviewed at the office now.

“We’d love them to come in and double-check it. Then we can fix it before it becomes a problem,” Mastro said.

Every property will be available on the assessment office’s computer on May 1, but residents can view their own cards before that date.

Mastro has made unusual efforts to make sure his property information is accurate before beginning the long reassessment process. He took the rare step of paying workers to visit every property and knock on every door in hope of getting permission to walk through each house. Other assessors have simply mailed out data cards for owners to fill out on their own, but Mastro said the city’s data was riddled with inaccuracies and needed professional attention.

“I came here knowing that we definitely needed to recollect all the data,” he said. “As an independent appraiser, I noticed a lot of data that wasn’t correct.”

At first, residents reacted angrily to the thought of letting a data collector inside.

“Once that month went by, most people have been receptive,” he said.

He sent data collectors out again on weekends to revisit every owner who asked for an interior inspection but wasn’t around during the week. That took two months.

Then about 300 owners asked for individual appointments because they weren’t available on the weekend. So he sent his collectors out again.

“We went around three times,” he said. “I’ve gone to extremes that I haven’t seen other assessors do.”

It’s paid off, he said. Collectors discovered innumerable errors, in everything from building classifications to the construction style.

“The amount of changes that took place were certainly more than typical,” he said.

Many houses were labeled “old style” when they were actually some other style that could be more valuable in today’s market. In other cases, houses were still listed as one or two-families when they had long ago been converted to multi-family apartment buildings.

“If we didn’t pick up that it’s a three-family, for whatever reason, it’s going to be compared to sales for two-families,” Mastro said. “There are some places where a three-family sells for more than a two-family, and some where it doesn’t. … It probably would affect the value, but up or down and how much? That’s something the market dictates.”

He is still gathering data on about 40 percent of the city’s commercial properties. He will spend the rest of the year on that while analyzing sales data to reassess the residential properties. New values for all properties — residential and commercial — will be available early next year.

He plans to send out letters very early in the year so that he has time for an informal grievance period before the roll is filed in June.

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