Senate passes Amedore’s bills to address equalization-rate woes

GUILDERLAND — On Monday, two bills sponsored by State Senator George Amedore passed in the Senate; they address the suddenly much higher property tax bills received this year by some Guilderland residents as a result of the new state-set equalization rate.

“They passed unanimously,” said Amedore on Wednesday.

Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy is sponsoring two similar bills in the State Assembly.

While one bill would offer immediate relief to Guilderland taxpayers outside of the Guilderland School District and the other would improve notification statewide, neither addresses the underlying problems with New York State’s system. The state has about 1,000 municipalities, each setting their own assessments, with an understaffed state office trying to equalize the varying assessments so that property owners pay their fair share.

Fahy said this week, “I have heard that maybe, if they had a standard rate throughout the state, we wouldn’t have these machinations, but my understanding is that there’s such a history of doing it this way that it’s just become more politically entrenched.”

Fahy added, “That will be a  much more complete fix.”

She also said that it looks like there will also be a third bill, which calls for the state, in cases like this, to make a final decision at least 30 days before tax bills are due. Fahy said that this third bill could face more opposition because it relates to the timing with which a state agency acts.

People who live within the town of Guilderland but in school districts other than Guilderland’s saw their taxes rise significantly when the equalization rate dropped in 2017 from 88 to 76 percent.

Taxes rose almost 12 percent for those who live in the Voorheesville school district, over 12 percent for those in South Colonie, almost 17 percent in Schalmont, and almost 19 percent in Mohonasen.

Guilderland residents also had a hike in Albany County tax bills. Guilderland had not done a town-wide property revaluation since 2005 and now has one underway.

The state-set rate is meant to equalize taxes among municipalities so that, for example, with county taxes, if someone owns a house worth $100,000 in the city of Albany, that person will pay the same amount of Albany County taxes as a person who owns a $100,000 house in Guilderland.

Albany recently completed a city-wide revaluation, so $100,000 is both the assessed and full-market value for that house in the city. In Guilderland, that house with a full-market value of $100,000 had an assessed value of $88,000 in 2016 and, in 2017, has an assessed value of $75,580. The equalization rate shifted the county tax burden to Guilderland property owners.

The town in August had unsuccessfully challenged its state-set equalization rate, arguing that the state system is flawed because it merely samples values, without looking at a county in its entirety.

One of the bills that passed on Monday is specific to Guilderland: It calls for a special, segmented equalization rate to be used for those parts of Guilderland that are not within the Guilderland school district. The rate would be set by the state.

The other is statewide and provides that, if the equalization rate being calculated by the state for a locality will differ by more than 5 percent than the previous assessment, a notification process would be initiated, informing the governing body of the affected county, city, town, village, and school district.

Guilderland Supervisor Peter Barber said that the current rules require at least a 10-percent difference. “That’s a high threshold, I think designed to reduce the number of requests for the special segmented rate,” he said.

Barber also said that town officials had had a conference call recently with officials from the New York State Office of Real Property Tax Services Board, or ORPTS, who said that, even if the legislation is not adopted by March 1, it will be effective retroactively.

If both bills pass in the State Assembly as well, they then have to be signed into law by the governor; he has the power to veto them as well.

Barber said ORPTS believes that this will all be done well before tax bills go out in September.

With the legislation about notification, Barber said, “We will get notice much earlier and can share it with residents much earlier.”

Of the way things have been done by the state regarding notification, Amedore told The Enterprise this week, “It seems to be there’s no transparency now, and, surprise, here’s your bill.”

Amedore said that the bill allowing for a segmented rate would “try to bring some equality, or some relief, to those property owners that saw a huge increase.”

 

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