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Sun., Apr. 26
Serving the community of Ogdensburg, New York
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Potsdam Assessment

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To The Editor:

This evening (Tuesday) I spoke on behalf of many people in attendance for the town of Potsdam Council meeting. I spoke with a goal in mind for so many property owners at the breaking point with their inequitable and unacceptable property assessment.

Having spent numerous hours examining the preliminary assessment roll and now the tentative assessment roll, it has become overtly obvious that there are numerous apparent errors, inconsistent increases, over assessments, and quantifiable inequitable assessments throughout the 2013 reval. Not only do the assessment numbers show this but it is as well evident by the overwhelming numbers of property owners who sought a meeting time with the assessor.

Due to time constraints, many were unable to secure a time for an informal grievance procedure and are still waiting to meet with him prior to May 28th Grievance Day. In fact Mr. Snyder was only able to accommodate 243 requests for review during the informal grievance period.

Of those 243 individuals that were met with, the “give back” by the assessor was approximately $7 millio, which equates to approximately a $92 million increase in assessed value over 2012. This puts the current tentative assessment roll at $940 million. Please keep the following in mind, the village of Potsdam has roughly $283 million in un-taxable assessment, and several large corporations in the township saw reductions in their assessed value (as set by the state not the town).

Both of these points convey the glaring inequity of the system property owners are subjected to. The average increase in assessments for those living outside the village is 29 percent, those in the village of Potsdam saw and average increase of 21 percent, those in the village of Norwood saw a 20 percent increase.

The 2012 assessment value was approximately $851,000,000 and was apparently more than adequate to generate enough tax dollars to meet the financial responsibilities of the township and county. What new costs have given rise to the need for an additional $92 million in assessed value?

We’re consistently told it’s the county’s inability to get control of Medicaid, retirement and benefit costs. If the current tentative roll becomes the final roll this will equate to roughly $217 million being generated, at $2.80/thousand. And I will make the point that the county will acquire the majority of that money.

To further address the inequities found in the current tentative roll. We asked for clarification on the following:

The town board hired Mr. Snyder to gather property data to “fix” the inequities and inconsistencies of the 2008 property revaluation. When Mr. Snyder was appointed as assessor, two helpers were hired to assist him with the data collecting. What happened with the collected data and how was it utilized in the reval? After having heard far too many accounts of incorrect data being utilized it appears that the data is invalid. And as Mr. Zagrobelny stated, he felt TOPTA was the major push for a new assessor so that the process of assessment would hopefully become fairer and more equitable. Well it’s apparent that just because you can complete course work and score the highest on the civil service exam doesn’t equate to knowing how to adequately assess property values.

As for the B. A. R., Article 7 of the Code of Ethics for Local Government clearly supports the fact that there are two individuals currently serving on the B. A. R. that create a conflict of interest. The B. A. R. is charged with deciding assessments for individual properties. Those assessments directly impact the revenue stream that pays the salary of all town and county employees. In order for the evaluative process to be free of this conflict we requested that those two B. A. R. members be removed.

In 2007/ 2008 property values in the township were at their peak. Since that time we have been in steady decline. At this point the average sale price of a home is $70,000. In many cases out-of-date sales figures as comparables were used to increase assessments. NY State Real Property Law is as follows: Volume 7 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 7 Opinions of Counsel index Assessment review (tax certiorari proceeding) (sales data) - Real Property Tax Law, 302, 720:Where a petitioner in an inequality proceeding seeks to introduce evidence of actual sales to establish the ratio of assessed value to fair market value in general, only sales from the twelve-month period preceding taxable status date may be used. To establish the fair market value of the petitioner’s property, sales after taxable status date may be considered. Thus any comparables beyond that 12 month period are invalid and therefore the assessment is deemed invalid.

The State Office of Real Property fails to equate and/or accept that fact of declining values and is pushing the current reval mess we are caught up in. Is there a secret plan for 4-lane highway in the area and some large industries or businesses setting up shop offering employment with better paying jobs for residents that would drive our property values to such outrageous levels?

Does the town, county or state have a plan in place on how to get medical and retirement costs under control? Have any of them jointly even begun the conversation?

It has come to our attention that Mr. Snyder owns rental property in the town of Lisbon that had an assessment of $66,600 in 2011. Somehow it dropped to $45,000 in 2012 and remains unchanged for 2013. How is that possible? Did Mr. Snyder grieve his assessment? If so would he share how he developed his case and was granted such a large reduction for an income generating property? Did the Lisbon town assessor give every property owner that grieved a 32 percent decrease in their property value? Doesn’t the town of Lisbon have the same obligation to meet the increase demanded by the county? Obviously this serves as a glaring example of how unjust the system is.

At this point I will make it abundantly clear that our expectation is for the town council to direct the town assessor to throw out the 2013 tentative assessment; and roll the current assessments back to the 2012 assessment levels. We believe this request is more than justified given the evidence of the defective resultant tentative assessment, and as taxpayers it is within our lawful privileges. We also believe that the council has the legal capacity to administrate this action. Should the town council decide to respect our appeal it would indicate the town council has truly listened to the people.

We were not there on bended knee, we were there standing; unified in voice and action. If the council and the assessor do not see fit to honor our petition then we are left with no other recourse than to follow through with all actions within our means. This includes, but is not limited to, the legal recourse of a class action law suit.

Tracey E. Haggett-Sloan


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