The city’s assessments are so out of whack that the city is reducing every property’s value in the tentative assessment roll.
The new city assessor has reported to the state that Schenectady’s properties are assessed 4 percent higher than market value. The state has agreed to give the city a 104 percent equalization rate.
That means, in essence, that every property is valued at 4 percent less than its current assessment. Under that calculation, a house assessed at $100,000 would sell for $96,000.
Those who believe their house is over-assessed by 4 percent do not need to grieve to get that reduction; the city automatically adjusted all properties.
Raising the equalization rate allows the city to adjust assessments without a costly — and time-consuming — reassessment. It also might put an end to the dozens of lawsuits from property owners who claim their assessments are too high. The city has paid thousands of dollars in tax refunds in response to those complaints.
Mayor Gary McCarthy said the rate change should solve the city’s assessment problem for now.
“This gives us interim relief,” he said. “What you don’t want to do is have your reassessment happen during a dynamic market.”
Councilman Vince Riggi, the only non-Democrat in city government, said he wants a full reassessment. But, he said, the city clearly can’t afford to do it yet. So he was hoping assessments could be adjusted internally.
“It’s certainly askew, our assessment roll. There’s no question about it,” Riggi said.
McCarthy is hoping to wait until the real estate market settles. It was booming when the city did its last reassessment.
“What we seem to see here is the market is stabilizing,” he said. “Houses that were sitting on the market are moving. I think Key to the City has played a role.”
City officials, real estate agents and bankers run a monthly open house to sell privately owned property in the city. McCarthy has sent his department heads to talk about the benefits of living in a city, as well as frankly answering questions about the city’s problems. School officials have also participated. Dozens of houses have been sold.
As the supply of houses for sale falls, McCarthy says he believes houses will sell for higher prices. He’s hopeful the city’s total assessed value will eventually rise.
But for 2013, the assessed value of the city is falling. The roll shows that the city’s total assessed value has fallen by $44.1 million.
That means that even if the city’s expenses stay the same, taxes will rise.
McCarthy acknowledged that, but said he has not yet determined the full impact of the assessment changes.
Even though the equalization rate has changed, owners can still grieve their assessment. Grievance forms are due by Grievance Day on Tuesday. Also that day the Board of Assessment Review will hear presentations from owners.
Owners do not have to speak to the board; they can submit their data in writing. Generally, the board only approves grievances if they show that similar houses in the neighborhood are valued at a lower assessment.
There is no cost to file a grievance and no attorney is required.