Residents want revaluation halted

After a couple years of complaining over higher tax bills and major increases in property assessment

After a couple years of complaining over higher tax bills and major increases in property assessments, some town residents expressed surprise Thursday to hear the state doesn’t require resetting the town’s property values to full market value.

“You don’t have to be at 100 percent, unless you want the [state] aid,” said Bob Aiken, manager of a 16-county region for the state’s Office of Real Property Services. “All the law says is you have to be uniform,” he said.

“There is no enforcement mechanism in the state,” according to Aiken. Changing that would be up to the courts or the state Legislature, he said.

Several residents, upset that “other towns are laughing at us,” got town Supervisor John Barlow and Councilman Roy Bilby to agree to look into the possibility of legal action to stop the ongoing revaluation of properties townwide.

“We should look into it and see if there’s any substance to it,” Barlow told resident John Primeau, who suggested it.

“If we have a legal recourse, we should address it aggressively,” Primeau said.

“When we went to the [revalued] assessment … everybody’s assessments skyrocketed,” said Primeau.

Aiken was grilled for nearly two hours in front of about 50 town residents who are upset that a former Town Board’s decision three year ago began a process that many said doubled and tripled not only their assessments, but also their tax bills.

“The problem is other towns in the county. They refuse to do a re-val,” said Betsy Bernocco, who was town supervisor when the Town Board agreed to revalue all the approximately 1,600 properties in the town.

That leaves Richmondville paying an unfair share of county taxes and taxes to the Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School District.

Bernocco, a Democrat, was defeated for re-election last fall by Republican John Barlow, then a longtime town councilman.

Aiken, who answered questions at the request of the Town Board, explained how properties are assessed and valued is up to local officials.

“We can’t change the assessments, only the assessor can.”

But Aiken said ORPS agrees about 88 percent of the time with local assessors’ judgments when it comes to setting equalization rates when municipalities are not at full value.

As a “quasi-court,” the local Board of Assessment Review can also decide to adjust the assessor’s property value determinations after owners prove their grievances.

Roughly 10 percent of the 130 property owners who grieved in May had assessments changed, review board Chairman Marjorie Sperbeck estimated before Thursday’s meeting began.

The state ORPS monitors assessors training courses and provides guidelines and technical assistance, Aiken said.

The ORPS recommends full value assessments, and gives communities that do it $5 per parcel in local aid, he said.

Town Board of Assessment Review member Horst Fierek, said the approximately $8,000 that might bring the town was not worth the problems he claims have been caused by unfair assessments by town Assessor Matthew Richardson.

Fierek suggested the town should fire Richardson for not coming to town meetings and allegedly unfairly assessing properties.

Richardson was not present Thursday.

If all the properties are to be reassessed annually, “we need a full-time assessor,” said Fierek. He suggested the town pay for it, with a one-time fee.

If the problems are not addressed, Fierek said he is considering running for supervisor next year.

Categories: Schenectady County

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