No reval since 2005 was a ticking time bomb

To the Editor:

I hope to clear up some confusion regarding local tax bills in Guilderland. First, the county tax rate is lower today than when I took office two years ago.

As a longtime taxpayer advocate, I feel this is an important accomplishment. However, many county tax bills in Guilderland did rise this year, along with some school and fire-district bills, because of problems with the town of Guilderland’s assessment process.

Here’s some background on this complex issue. We tax property in New York State based on its market value. Yet, we know that the market value changes over time.

Some municipalities are better than others at keeping the assessed value of property closer to its true market value. So, to be fair to all municipalities, the state tries to even the playing field by approving an “equalization rate” for all municipalities.

Guilderland’s assessed value process failed the test set by New York State so the state stepped in last year and adjusted the town’s equalization rate. That adjustment led to the furor over school tax bills, many of which jumped dramatically despite little or no change in their school tax levy.

I made the point at a town board meeting that this town equalization problem would also affect other tax bills, too. Well, it has.

The town has not done a formal revaluation of properties since 2005, so this equalization problem was a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. The town could have been much more proactive in alleviating this growing problem.

Though the town did vote to do a town-wide revaluation this year, that process is fraught with risk because both the school district and town used the 2005 revaluation process to raise taxes, which is not the purpose of a revaluation. This risk requires each of us to pay careful attention to how the 2018 revaluation process is handled.

Mark Grimm

Albany County Legislator

Editor’s note: Mark Grimm of Guilderland, a Republican, represents the 29th District in the Albany County Legislature.