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Editorial: State law giving condo owners assessment break needs changing

Editorial: State law giving condo owners assessment break needs changing

An unfair burden on traditional homeowners

A clerk in the Saratoga Springs Accounts Department may be fired over her months-long campaign to call attention to the way some owners of high-end condominiums have been granted sizable assessment reductions, but if her effort results in the changing of an antiquated state law, she will have done her city and others around the state with growing numbers of condominiums a huge favor.

Mary Zlotnick is basically pointing out the unfairness of a 1964 state law that requires condos to be assessed not for their market value but for their (far lower) rental value. Passed as a sop to New York City landlords when large numbers of rental units were being converted to condos, the law creates a burden on traditional homeowners, who have to pick up the slack when condo owners get a break. The impact has been magnified in communities with lots of high-end condos, communities like Saratoga Springs.

For political reasons, attempts to change the law have never gotten very far in the state Legislature, so some assessors stopped following it. Others may not have known it existed in the first place if condos are just coming into their communities for the first time. In any event, these assessors have been assessing condos at fair market value, something which came to the attention of a Malta businesswoman within the past few years, and she’s been making money by winning large assessment reductions on behalf of her Saratoga Springs condo owner clients.

Zlotnick asserts that Diane C. Young has actually been getting coached in her efforts by the city’s assistant assessor, Anthony Popolizio. The allegation appears to have gotten her suspended for insubordination, but the city’s accounts commissioner and state attorney general’s office are looking into it. That’s good news.

Whether Popolizio had any role in Young’s success as a griever is worth finding out. But the big issue here is the law, and how it continues to unfairly allow condo owners to pay far less in taxes than comparably valued traditional dwellings.

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