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Grievance Day

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005 · No Comments

One of the ongoing joys of being a new home owner is learning about things like tax assessment and grieving. Although some people may have done the traditional kind of grieving when they received just over two weeks ago their notice that their assessed property values were increasing 8% this year, I decided to spend the last couple days researching how this whole thing works and what we can do about it.

Residents seek smaller value judgment:

People started forming a line in City Hall around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday for their chance to say why their new property assessment is too high.

They had a lot to tell the volunteer Board of Assessment Review.

Jen and I get our chance to go before the board tonight to plead our case. Although our assessment is somewhat in line with what may be fair market value, it’s quite a bit higher than most other comparable properties on our street and in our neighborhood (due to our recent purchase and the previous owner’s purchase the year before; other properties haven’t turned over as recently). City assessor Stephen Towne and the board reviewing the appeals claim it is their mission to bring the assessed value of all properties to 100% of fair market value, but I do not believe that is really the case. There is a discrepancy between sale prices and assessed values in the city, so some percentage of fair market value is being used. That’s going to be another point in our argument.

How Assessors Achieve Fair and Accurate Assessments:

In order for property to be assessed consistently at a uniform percent of current market value, assessors should analyze all of the parcels to determine which assessments should be adjusted. This requires that, each year, the assessor analyze and evaluate the market to determine current market value, and change where appropriate the assessments of properties. If the assessor is adjusting assessments to a uniform percentage of market value, rather than 100 percent of market value, the assessor would apply that percentage to all assessments.

While at City Hall yesterday, I happened to catch part of a speech by John P. Franck, a lifetime Republican who has recently switched parties to gain the support of the local Democratic Party and challenge incumbent Accounts Commissioner Towne:

Franck continued with the announcement of an ‘award for inaccuracy’ for Towne for misprinting the City Hall address on the reassessment notices.

Franck said that if he is elected, he will first see what the neighboring communities are doing before initiating a reassessment.

‘I don’t have a problem with assessments as long as they are disclosed and fair,’ he said. ‘But I see an inequity unless Greenfield and Wilton do a reassessment as well.’

Because the Saratoga Springs school district includes parts of Greenfield and Wilton, unless both communities reassess their property values, city residents can end up paying a larger percentage of the school district budget.

Regardless of the outcome of our grievance, it’s been a great experience learning about how all this stuff works — and to see how damn confusing it is to do something as seemingly simple as research the assessed values of other properties in town, which requires a lengthy and paper shuffling process of looking up property ID by street address or property owner, cross-referencing with records in city assessor’s office to determine square footage, number of bedrooms, etc., then forming an argument that proposes a fair market value for your property based on these data.

It’s also pretty telling that the process isn’t working quite right when a board member quits on Grievance Day.

Tags: saratoga springs