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Assessments Raise Ire

By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY — March 29, 2002 – Some area residents have been coming home to a surprise in their mailbox this month.
It’s assessment time again, and in the towns of Callicoon, Fremont and Rockland, residents have just received their updated property assessment.
But not everyone’s happy with that. The area has been undergoing a quiet boom with new businessess dotting the streets and new homes going up, and that means that values have been creeping up.
But town assessors say most people’s complaints are unfounded.
The assessments, updated from 1995 when the three municipalities last reviewed their tax base, have almost all gone up. But that means the town’s tax base has gone up as well.
Just because someone’s assessment has gone up doesn’t mean their taxes will, said Town of Callicoon Assessor Bonnie Hubert. But it does mean residents can get a higher price for their homes.
Hubert explained that the base value of properties in the Town of Callicoon has been on the rise since 1995.
“Things are happening here, which is wonderful,” she noted.
But that means the tax base has grown, and the town had to keep up with the market.
The reassessments, even those showing an increase in value, mean that the town now has an increased tax base to divide their budget into.
That may actually mean lower taxes for residents, she said, or at least the taxes should stay about the same.
“If the budget stays the same, you’re dividing it into a larger [tax] base,” she explained.
The same could be true in the Town of Rockland, said Assessor Cynthia Theadore, though with the after effects of Sept. 11 on the state budget and schools being shortfunded this year, taxes may be on the rise anyway.
“We’ve increased our tax base, so theoretically the rates should go down,” she said. “But I don’t know what’s going to happen with the schools.”
In Rockland, Theodore saw a lot of change in the assessments – some properties even went down in value while others, waterfront properties which have gone for sums much higher than the 1995 assessment, have gone up.
But the town had to address the changing market, Theodore said.
The town’s equality rate, which is a comparison of the assessments to the selling prices, was dropping. This could have an effect on STAR, the state’s property tax exemption program, and on property owners’ county taxes.
But complaints have still come in from residents – some founded and others unfounded.
Some residents are concerned their taxes will rise sky high. Others want to make sure the assessment is in line with the purchasing price of the property.
The assessments which went out in the mail were accompanied by an impact statement explaining to residents what would be happening with their taxes, Hubert said.
Those who feel their property has been unfairly assessed have the chance to approach the town, with evidence, and challenge that assessment.
Residents can set up a meeting with the assessor’s office, bringing any proof they might have that their property is not worth what the town has determined is the fair market value.
“If it’s wrong, we will fix it,” Hubert said. “But they have to provide evidence.
“This is based on what the market value of your home is.”
“We’re really trying to be sticklers about proof,” Theadore added. “We have worked three hard years on these assessments.
“We’ve done our homework, and we’re asking the public to do theirs.”
A recent appraisal proving the property is worth less than the assessment or a bill of sale showing the home sold for much less than the assessed value would be proof enough for the assessor’s office.
Another letter is expected to go out in May to residents, explaining the new assessment of their property, at which point residents can approach the grievance board to overturn any improper values.
The final assessment will not go into effect until July 1, Hubert said.
But overall, said the assessors, the updated assessments should not cause problems in the community.

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