ANCRAM—Some residents of Ancram may have already heard a knock on their door and been met with the smiling face of a property data collector on the other side.
Postcards have been mailed to every Ancram property owner letting them know their property will be subject to a full reassessment next year—2023.
That means—this year 2022—data collectors will be out there visiting every property they can to make sure the information the town assessor has on file about the property is up-to-date and accurate.
Ancram Town Assessor Rene DeLeeuw and Columbia County Real Property Tax Service Agency Director Suzette Booy made an appearance via Zoom at the March 17 Ancram Town Board meeting to go over what will be happening around town in connection with the reval and what residents can expect.
In 2019, Columbia County and Ancram entered into an agreement whereby the county will assist the town with the completion of a full townwide assessment. The process was supposed to have been completed in 2022, but with the onset of the pandemic, the county ran into delays and Ancram’s reassessment was pushed out an additional year, Ms. Booy told the board.
The last time Ancram had a “full blown” reassessment was back in 2008, when the town’s equalization rate sank to 56%. In 2016, some assessment changes were made to every residential parcel due to changes in the market which caused the equalization rate to exceed 100%. The assessment roll was analyzed and the equalization rate brought back to 100%, so properties were assessed at full market value rather than above, Ms. Booy said.
Now in 2022, properties will be assessed at a 74% equalization rate. If a revaluation is not completed next year, the rate will continue to decrease, Ms. Booy said, adding that the more years between revals, the more chance inequities can creep into an assessment roll. The primary reason to do a reval is to restore equity so that everyone is paying their fair share.
The two data collectors mentioned on the postcard are Real Property Tax Office employees. They began traveling around town to complete their five-month assignment on March 1.
They will go to every property, knock on the door and tell the resident why they are there, take updated photos, measurements and compare their findings to the data on file with the assessor’s office.
Ms. Booy said, collectors have already visited 180 of the 1,300 parcels on their travel agenda in Ancram. Weather will impact this phase of the process, she said. If collectors are unable to get to a property, the property owner is not home or the property owner tells them to get lost, they will leave the property and an attempt will be made by the assessor to contact the resident.
Appointments for visits by data collectors are not possible due to time constraints.
‘Increased value and about the same tax levy, means lower tax rates… ”
Suzette Booy, director
County Real Property Tax Service Agency
Once the data verification process is complete, residents will receive a notice in July, showing them what inventory, such as square footage, numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, garages and sheds appear on the assessor’s records. If something is wrong, residents must make changes to the notice and send it back to the assessor. After the changes have been reviewed the valuation process will start in the fall. The valuation will be done by the assessor working with a firm hired by the county to assist him. That part of the process typically takes several months. By March 1, 2023 an Assessment Disclosure Notice will go out showing what the resident’s preliminary assessment is and a hypothetical estimate of how it will impact the resident’s taxes.
“As long as the town, county and school districts stay within the 2% tax cap or keep their levy roughly the same as the year before, as long as that happens it is anticipated that tax rates will drop,” she said. This is because there will be a significant amount of increased taxable value in the assessment roll for Ancram.
“Increased value and about the same tax levy, means lower tax rates,” said Ms. Booy. Typically, tax changes seen are 1/3 stay the same, 1/3 go down and 1/3 increase, “but we can’t guarantee anything,” she said.
Assessor Rene DeLeeuw said some residents contacted him after receiving the initial postcard with concerns—such as they have animals they don’t want disturbed or they have a problem road and they don’t want the collectors to get stuck in a rut.
He said people are welcome to contact him and if there are issues, he will relay them to the data collectors.
He made it clear that collectors are not looking to invade anyone’s privacy and will not go inside anyone’s house to see what’s going on. He said it is up to the resident to indicate what is correct on their inventory sheet when they receive it.
Councilperson Amy Gold asked if homes are not only assessed based on size or the number of outbuildings but on surrounding views.
Ms. Booy said views are taken into consideration based on what the market is showing, what properties with the same or similar views are selling for.
Mr. DeLeeuw noted, “If we determine that properties with water views or long range mountain views are selling for significantly more, then we have to take that into account.”
Ms. Booy told The Columbia Paper in a phone interview this week, that along with Ancram, the County Real Property Tax Service Agency will assist Stockport with a revaluation next year. She said the state recommends that revals be completed every four to five years due to market changes and other inequities, such as added inventory that may not appear in the assessment records.
The County Real Property Tax office does not always help municipalities with revaluations, some municipalities may opt to hire independent contractors. In the past six years, including the 2023 revals now underway, Ms. Booy said her agency has assisted 16 towns and villages with the process.
In closing at the meeting, Ms. Booy said that when there are properties that data collectors cannot get to because owners have refused access; the road is muddy or unsafe conditions exist or even because of loose dogs (one collector has been bitten), then aerial images will be used to determine measurements and other features of a property for the record.