G’town plans for reassessment to start next year

GERMANTOWN—The focus was primarily on the presentation by Suzette Booy, director of Real Property Tax Services of Columbia County at the October 9 Town Board meeting. A town-wide reassessment is planned for the fall of 2019 for the tax roll of 2021.

The process begins with inventory verification of data, which will be gathered by the two county data collectors. “The goal is to have fairness and equity amongst every taxpayer in Germantown,” Ms. Booy said. “Our second goal is to obtain 100% equalization rate.”

Along with the county the state will also be monitoring the progress. Town assessor Ralph DelPozzo will be considered the project manager and the county will work closely with him, because, she said, “In the end the assessor is the one to sign off on every value we come up with.”

The last Germantown full assessment–called a revaluation–was in 2010 at which time the equalization rate was 75% and went to 100% in 2011. According to Ms. Booy, another goal is to collect data in a cohesive manner so that everyone is assessed in the same way. This project is not expected to bring any additional revenue to the town.

The reassessment will impact the 2021 school tax and the town and county tax bills for 2022. Currently, the town’s equalization rate is at 85%, with veterans at 80%, however, this exemption will be increased when 100% equalization is reached. She said that she cannot guarantee there won’t be a tax increase. For some property owners taxes may go down or up. The project is not expected to begin until late 2019. A man in the audience called out, “Hey Ralph, between now and then you aren’t going to raise taxes?” The question evoked laughter, including from town Supervisor Robert Beaury and members of the board.

“Ralph has nothing to do with raising taxes,” said Ms. Booy.

Mr. DelPozzo said that preliminary notifications for the revaluation sent to residents by mail ask for the square footage of a home and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. But Susan Raab said the mailed requests are vague and do not indicate how the data will be used. The assessor said that he would see how to clarify its purpose.

When the revaluation is completed, each homeowner will receive notification via mail of the updated property value. At this time, homeowners will have the opportunity to speak with Ralph DelPozzo in the event of a disagreement.

The state would like to see reassessments done every 4-6 years and offers a small incentive for towns to comply. Ms. Booy said the state now offers $2 to $2.50 per property, adding that “with the current cuts, who knows what it will be in 2021.”

In addition to state aid, the town can benefit by having the revaluation done by the county Real Property Services agency, which would charge $13,000, rather than paying a private company $90,000. And Columbia County will allow the town to pay in three installments.

Also at the October 9 meeting:

• The board discussed the Amtrak plan for fences and gates along the tracks. Kaare Christian asked the board if he should contact CSX, the company that owns the tracks and leases them and the adjacent to them to Amtrak.

Supervisor Beaury agreed that Mr. Christian should try, but warned, “I feel we should be prepared for mitigation.” Though Amtrak initially agreed to Germantown’s suggested changes to the fence plans, “that changed after the letter we submitted” the supervisor said.

Mr. Beaury said an alternative plan must be in place for the next meeting between town officials and Amtrak. “We have to make sure we are prepared and that we bring our entire game. We won’t have another chance”

• At the August board meeting Ellen Jouret Epstein had suggested and the board agreed that the town should do a corridor study. At last week’s meeting she gave board members copies of an outline of what the plans would involve. “The plans would be a Town Board process, to be inclusive of all town residents,” according to Ms. Jouret Epstein. “In no way is it meant to halt town development but rather to further enhance it through business development that serves our needs, services what we want and promote a tax base we want to maintain. There is no intent on telling landowners to whom they can sell their property to.”

Her recommendations suggested the study area could begin at the school, go North to Maple Avenue and to the diner and that the board should create an oversight committee with 7-10 members, to include town government members and 2 or more residents from the 9G corridor area. She also recommended the town seek funding for a planning consultant.

The board agreed to review the outline and that members would discuss a moratorium with town attorney

• Supervisor Beaury said the preliminary town budget for 2019 has a 1.02% tax levy increase

• It was announced that the Emergency Responders Drill was cancelled due to lack of volunteers.

The next Town Board meeting is November 13 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

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