Schenectady County

Rotterdam official: Number of assessment fights typical

John Kwiatkowski can’t understand why the assessed value of his auto body repair shop nearly doubled

John Kwiatkowski can’t understand why the assessed value of his auto body repair shop nearly doubled this year.

The owner of Rotterdam Auto Services was shocked when the town informed him that the 3,756-square-foot block garage on a third of an acre off Westside Avenue is now worth $279,000. The one-story structure he built himself in 1975 was valued at $150,000 during Rotterdam’s reassessment in 2007.

Kwiatkowski insists that he’s checked other similar commercial properties and found that his assessment of about $74 per square foot is nearly twice the value of other automotive repair shops in the area. And he’s fairly certain that his business is the only one in the area that was so drastically reassessed.

“Something’s not fair here,” he said Wednesday, vowing to grieve his property value before the town’s Board of Assessment Review next week. “My biggest question is why me and nobody else?”

Kwiatkowski is among about 60 businesses and residents that have filed grievances over their assessments. Rotterdam Assessor Craig Surprise said the number of grievances is on par with the number of disputed assessments the town normally receives.

“It’s not really a lot,” he said from his office. “People aren’t asking for big reductions for the most part.”

Surprise said some grievances are resulting from corrections he’s made to the property tax rolls after reviewing roughly 1,300 parcels — or about 10 percent of the town’s property tax roll — over the past year. In some cases, he said he’s still cleaning up incorrect data collected during the revaluation.

For instance, Surprise said he found a number of tax roll errors among the properties he examined along Rotterdam’s border with Schenectady. He believes that Kwiatkowski’s garage wasn’t included in the value of his property because the data collector in 2007 mistakenly considered it part of Schenectady’s tax roll.

“It’s not like he’s being singled out,” he said. “We probably looked at 140 [properties], and he wasn’t the only one that was reassessed on the line.”

The Town Assessor’s Office also has the benefit of new technology to root out errors in data collection. About a month ago, Surprise began using Pictometry, a satellite imaging program that allows him to access high-quality, three-dimensional views of the town and provides him with tools to perform a number of measurements.

Another change that could affect the town is the state’s overall reduction in the value of the town’s railroad property. The state Office of Real Property Services determines ceiling values for property owned by a number of interstate railroad companies.

Surprise said the property owned by CSX this year received a $1.6 million reduction from the $6.9 million assessment in 2008. He said these reductions could place a greater burden on the other property owners in the town.

However, the town’s equalization rate is expected to remain at 95 percent.

Surprise said nearly 80 percent of the property sales he sees in Rotterdam are still above the assessed value.

“The assessments on average are still lower than the sale price,” he said.

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