ANCRAM—A majority of Town Board members voted to go forward with the planned 2023 revaluation of town properties despite the inflated real estate sale prices brought on by the pandemic housing market boom.
Town Supervisor Art Bassin posed the question at the November 17 Town Board meeting: Do we do the reassessment in 2023 as scheduled or do we defer for a year to give the market a chance to settle down?
Columbia County Real Property Tax Service Agency Director Suzette Booy and Ancram Assessor Rene DeLeeuw were both tuned into the meeting via Zoom.
Ms. Booy noted that the towns of Stockport, Canaan and New Lebanon have all decided to postpone their revaluations, revals for short, until 2024.
The goal of a townwide reassessment is to have “equity for everyone to be treated fairly and be assessed at the same level, the same uniform percent of value,” Ms. Booy said.
The more years that lapse between reassessments “the more chances there are for inequity to creep up into the roll,” for some people to be assessed higher than they should be and some to be assessed lower, she said.
If the 2023 reassessment goes forward, two years and possibly three years of sales, up until June 30, 2022, would be looked at to gather enough “willing-buyer, willing-seller, arms-length sales” to develop a sales comparison model on which to value all residential properties, Ms. Booy explained.
If the reval was postponed a year, sales from up to June 30, 2023 would be used.
In her research of Ancram homes that sold for 30% or greater than the properties’ assessed value between July 1 through November 15, 2022, Ms. Booy said she found that to be true in 6 out of 7 instances. She pointed to selling prices of 178%, 105%, 103%, 100% and 75% higher than the properties’ assessed values.
In sales that have already happened and would be part of the data used if the town was to wait a year, there has been no sign of a downturn in the market, she said. Will there be a change going forward? Right now, based on the numbers, “I don’t see it. In my opinion, by holding off a year, you may not see a difference” between doing the reval in 2023 or waiting until 2024, said Ms. Booy.
‘… They fear their taxes will go through the roof.’
Councilmember Amy Gold
Ancram Town Board
In answer to a question from Mr. Bassin about the significance of going forward with the reval with sales in the 120% to 130% of assessed value price range, Ms. Booy said, Ancram’s equalization rate will go up to 100% next year, while the following year it may go higher than that.
But even if that proves to be the case in 2024, the town can then “trend properties down to stay at a 100% equalization rate,” she said.
“Trending,” explained Ms. Booy, is looking at all the residential sales that have occurred in comparison to the assessed value, not only in Ancram, but all over the county and the market and coming up with a trend based on the difference.
Responding to Councilmember Hugh Clark’s request for her recommendation about whether to go forward or hold off on the reval, Ms. Booy said she did not give a recommendation on purpose.
Acknowledging that it is a “tough” decision, she said it is strictly a board decision and she will stand by the board and whatever it decides. It’s all about “being fair.” If the reval is postponed and there are inequities out there now, where some are paying more than their fair share and others are not paying their fair share, those inequities are just going to continue for another year. “Is that the right thing to do?” Ms. Booy questioned.
The town’s current equalization rate is 74% and if the reval was postponed for another year it could drop to an estimated 65%, she said.
Town Assessor DeLeeuw said he did not think waiting a year to do the reval has a downside. He suggested that the board go that route, but in the meantime the town should update the property inventory to include the dates improvements were made to various properties and get ready for a reval in 2024.
Based on information he received from a friend in the real estate business, Mr. DeLeeuw said, in the last couple of months the market has slowed down and sales have been fewer. “Let’s wait till 2024 and see what the market does.” He also advised the board not to wait more than one year to do a reval.
Supervisor Bassin said to wait a year will be “losing an opportunity to bring all properties together in a common valuation framework.” He said the current discrepancies between assessments and sales prices would continue for another year.
Councilmember David Boice said, if the town can “trend down” assessments should the market “fall off a cliff,” why not go ahead with the reval in 2023 as the town has been preparing to do?
Councilmember Clark said though he was initially leaning toward holding off a year, he now thinks a 2023 reval would restore the balance while still retaining the options to “course correct” if necessary.
Councilmember Bonnie Hundt said that if the market is on its way down, to wait another year when the equalization rate may fall further to 65% then bring it up to 100% would be “a bigger jolt” to the taxpayer.
Councilmember Amy Gold said she was not convinced that a 2023 reval was the right thing to do. What she has heard from her constituents is that because of these higher than normal home sales prices “they fear their taxes will go through the roof.”
Ms. Booy noted that in all the revals she has done over the years, one third of taxpayers see an increase, one third see a decrease and one third stay the same.
When the matter came to a roll call vote at the end of the discussion, Supervisor Bassin, Councilmembers Boice, Clark and Hundt voted Yes to proceed with the 2023 reval as scheduled, while Councilmember Gold voted No.
Following the vote, Mr. Bassin thanked everyone for their input and said moving forward with the reval is “the right thing for the equity portion of this process.”
The next town board meeting takes place Thursday, December 15 at 7 p.m.