Susanne Koban said she can’t afford to make improvements on her home unless her taxes are lowered by the city.
Koban, 48, who moved into a home on Van Vranken Avenue in February, said she would like to retire in Schenectady but cannot afford the city’s high taxes.
“I’m just trying to make it work,” she said while waiting Tuesday morning to present her case to the city’s Board of Assessment Review in the Council Chambers at City Hall. “There are basic things that the previous owner did not get done. Now I have to pay someone to do the work.”
Koban said her home is assessed at $95,700, but she purchased the property at 2121 Van Vranken Ave. for $39,000. If the board grants a lower assessment, Koban said she could start making improvements such as a new roof and plumbing in the kitchen.
“I’m not looking for a certain amount for the assessment to be lowered,” she said. “Anything is good. I’m a single woman. I just can’t pay for all of the improvements right now.”
The city’s annual Grievance Day gives homeowners the option to plead their case for a lower assessment to the review board. This year the city received 323 grievance applications, compared to 447 last year. City officials could not provide the number of last year’s grievances that were approved by the board, despite repeated requests.
The five-member board will review all applications and respond by July 1. Board members are Ruth Bergeron, Mary D’Alessandro, Dharam Hitlall, Bill Sanderson and Douglas Williams.
Rasit “Ross” Denitz, 34, purchased a home on Plymouth Avenue after taking a job at General Electric two years ago. Denitz and his wife, Nurcihan, have been making improvements to the home themselves since they moved because they’re trying to keep repair costs as low as possible.
Denitz said he’s looking to get the property’s assessed value dropped from $98,800 to $77,000, which is what they paid for the home at 601 Plymouth Ave.
“I don’t see how it’s assessed so high,” he said. “It’s a struggle to pay for materials and make improvements. We want to beautify the property.”
Denitz said he would like to be a lifelong resident of Schenectady, but probably wouldn’t be able to stay in the city if his taxes aren’t lowered.
“There are better properties with lower taxes,” he said. “I would consider the option of moving. I think a lot of people feel that way.”
Denitz said his neighbors also want to make improvements to their homes but either can’t afford it or are worried their property’s assessed value would be raised.
“Long-term residents want to enhance their properties with no penalties,” he said. “The city is so focused on that, too. The city should offer tax incentives then to help.”
Mayor Gary McCarthy said maintenance on homes would not raise a property’s assessment, but an addition would.
“If you’re adding a new room then it would probably go up,” he said. “Maintaining something does not necessarily raise the assessment.”
The equalization rate this year is 121 percent of a property’s market value. The tax rate this year for the city is $13.875322 per $1,000 of assessed value, $6.797773 for the county and $22.609484 for the school district.
McCarthy said the assessment is designed to ensure property owners are paying their fair share of taxes. He also said the city is looking at the possibility of a reassessment, which would be a multiyear project.
“We want to make sure there is fairness in the tax roll,” he said, adding that he believes there is fairness now. “People feel they are being over-assessed, but really what they have to look at is the total tax levy.”
He pointed to the inequity in the state’s education aid formula as a reason for the city’s high property taxes because the school district makes up a big chunk of a homeowner’s total tax bill.
John Martin, 69, said he believes his home on Van Curler Avenue is over-assessed. He would like to see his assessment dropped from $129,155 to about $100,000.
“The real estate market has been pretty bad, and the city doesn’t want to reduce assessments,” he said. “Properties are being sold for much less than their assessed values.”
Martin, who lives at 1451 Van Curler Ave., said people are frustrated with the city’s high assessments and high property taxes.
Anne O’Brey, a Realtor with RealtyUSA, purchased a property on Stanford Street from the Department of Veterans Affairs for $42,000 in March. The home is assessed at $125,400.
The previous owner paid $74,000 for the home in 2006. Back then, the owner was paying about $2,200 a year in taxes, she said. Now, O’Brey pays $5,900.
“The property value continues to drop because the tax bill is increasing,” she said. “That’s why people are foreclosing on their homes. We have to do something about the taxes.”
O’Brey said she purchased the property so she can get involved in the city. She owns a total of 10 properties — six in California and four in New York.
“I think there is a lack of knowledge on their part,” she said. “They are worried about their budget, but it’s so much more than that. I’m trying to help. People need this money to do improvements, which would create jobs.”