New equalization rates to ease tax burden for Guilderland residents

Enterprise file photo — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

In September 2017, Guilderland residents showed up to a town board meeting to protest unforseen tax hikes due to a drop in the town’s state-set equalization rate. 

VOORHEESVILLE — Guilderland residents in the Voorheesville Central School District will see a change from what they had expected in their tax bill for the upcoming school year.

The state’s Department of Taxation and Finance has set an equalization rate of 82.94 percent for the 2018-19 school year for Guilderland residents who live in the Voorheesville Central School District. Last school year, the rate was 75.5 percent; two years ago, it was 88 percent.

Citizens living on the edges of Guilderland, in other school districts besides Guilderland’s, had protested the dramatic hike.

The one-year increase in Guilderland’s equalization rate for those in the Voorheesville school district means that homeowners in New Scotland and Berne will be paying a larger share of the tax levy for this upcoming school year. “More of the burden shifts that way – it’s just the math,” Superintendent Brian Hunt said.

The lion’s share of the school district is in New Scotland, a town that is close to having its properties assessed at full-market value. New Scotland’s equalization rate went from 98 percent last year, to 96 percent this year.

A small part of the district also lies in Berne with assessments nowhere near full-market value; Berne’s rate dropped from 64 to 61 percent this year.

The state uses equalization rates to ensure that property taxes are distributed fairly among property owners that live in different municipalities with divergent assessments.

While the drop of two or three percentage points in the Berne and New Scotland rates had a small effect on taxpayers, the 13-point drop in Guilderland, from 88 to 75 percent, led to significant tax increases for residents whose properties on the edge of town were in districts other than the Guilderland Central School District.

Guilderland residents who live in the Voorheesville Central School District saw a tax increase of almost 12 percent; Guilderland residents in the South Colonie Central School District had a 12-percent increase; in Schalmont, it was a 17-percent increase; and in Mohonasen, 19 percent.

Guilderland residents who live in the Guilderland Central School District saw a 1.6-percent increase.

As a result of the suddenly much higher property tax bills, Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy and State Senator George Amedore sponsored a bill that gave Guilderland taxpayers outside of the Guilderland School District the special segmented equalization rate for one year. The governor signed the bill into law on July 10.

Residents of Weatherfield, a development on the edge of Guilderland in the Voorheesville school district, who were active in protesting the tax hikes are holding a block party on Sept. 15 to celebrate reducing their neighbors’ tax bills. Fahy and Amedore have been invited to the party along with Guilderland’s supervisor and assessor.

Organizer Diane Reilly states, “Our segmented area (in the Voorheesville school district) has approximately 300 homes that range from $160,000 to $700,000 in value.”

Guilderland is now in the process of revaluing all the properties in town with the goal of making each at full-market value. Guilderland, which used to conduct townwide revaluations every four or five years since moving to full-value assessment in 1980, hadn’t done so since 2005.

At its Aug. 16 meeting, the Voorheesville board approved an $18.8 million tax warrant for the 2018-19 school year; $1.1 million of that will be the Voorheesville Public Library’s budget for the upcoming year.

The drop last year in Guilderland’s equalization rate meant that Guilderland residents who lived in the Voorheesville School District paid 24.8 percent of the school district’s total tax levy; in 2016-17, those residents paid 22.5 percent of the levy.

Last year, New Scotland residents in the Voorheesville School District paid 73.9 percent of the tax levy, and saw a tax rate decrease of 2.03 percent; Berne residents paid 1.3 percent of the levy, and had a nearly 4-percent decrease in the tax rate.

Collection begins on Sept. 4, and ends at midnight on Oct. 31.

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