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Brasher plans to start reval effort in June

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BRASHER FALLS — The equalization rate for the town of Brasher has dropped to 88 percent, and town officials are starting to talk about doing a revaluation of town property.

Brasher Town Supervisor M. James Dawson acknowledged the move would likely meet with some opposition. “Other towns have done it, and there is always a hue and cry. But our equalization rate has dropped to 88 percent, and we would like to it be closer to 100 percent,” he said.

Assessor Allen Fukes predicted the equalization rate could drop to 84 or 85 percent by next spring. He said the assessment on residential properties remains fairly close to assessed values, but he said sales of farmland and vacant land in the township have skyrocketed in recent years. “Sales of vacant lands are going for 100 percent more than what they are assessed at. At first, it was people from down south paying $800, $900 an acre for property assessed at $300 an acre,” the Brasher assessor said.

He said initially the higher prices were paid by people coming into the area from places like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but he said the higher prices for vacant land are now being paid by local residents as well. He said Amish moving into the area have also been purchasing land at prices double or more than the assessed value of the property. “But they are selling their land in Ohio and Pennsylvania for $2,000, $3,000 an acre,” he said, pointing out the prices in the town compare favorably with the land values in their former hometowns.

Mr. Fukes said the Amish have purchased upwards of 300 to 400 acres of vacant land in the Helena area near the Franklin County line.

We’ve had some out-of-state buyers paying upward of $1,200 an acre and thinking they were stealing it. We even have swamp land going for $400, $500 an acre for recreational use. Tillable farmland is now selling for $1,000, $1,500 an acre, and the farmers eat that right up. Even if it is not tillable, it’s going for $800, $900 an acre and it is assessed at $300, $400 an acre,” he said.

St. Lawrence County Real Property Tax Director Darren W. Colton said the formula for determining equalization rates has changed in recent years. He said it is now a weighted average of four categories: utilities, residential, farm/vacant and commercial. “Vacant land was never monitored by the state before, but now they are saying every section of property needs to be at the same level of assessment,” he said.

The revaluation process will start with sales reviews and data collection work on residential and vacant land properties, and Mr. Fukes said he would like to start the actual revaluation process in June with the tax roll on the new assessments ready for the 2015 town and county tax rolls and the 2015-16 school tax rolls.

“An equalization rate is the state’s measure of a municipality’s level of assessment. This is the ratio of total assessed value (AV) to the municipality’s total market value (MV) or AV/MV. The municipality determines the AV and the MV is estimated by New York state. An equalization rate of 100 means that the municipality is assessing property at 100 percent of market value. An equalization rate of less than 100 means that the municipality’s total market value is greater than its assessed value. An equalization rate of greater than 100 means that the total assessed value for the municipality is greater than its total market value,” according to the county’s Real Property Tax Office website.

Mr. Colton said if an equalization rate drops too low, it can increase a town’s full value and increase the apportionment of county and school taxes for residents of that municipality.

Seventeen towns in the county — Canton, DeKalb, Depeyster, Edwards, Hammond, Hermon, Hopkinton, Lawrence, Madrid, Massena, Morristown, Oswegatchie, Piercefield, Pitcairn, Potsdam, Rossie and Waddington — currently have equalization rates of 100 percent. He said revals are planned next year in Stockholm and Pitcairn and tentatively in Macomb. “We try to do three of four a year,” he said.

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