Report: County property values among fastest rising in state

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OSWEGO  — Property values in Oswego County are up by more than 10 percent in the last two years, putting it among the top counties in the state by that metric.

In a report released this week, New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said localities around the state have levied $36.6 billion in property taxes — which during that timespan constituted approximately 43 percent of revenues for local governments across the state and reflected an increase of 2.4 percent from 2018.

DiNapoli reported Oswego County, along with three other counties in the Hudson Valley and western New York regions, had seen an increase in property values by more than 10 percent in the last two years. County tax authorities called the higher values a testament to the work done by county assessors, specifically keeping up with assessments and equalization rates.

The uptick in assessed values could also be driven by tourism, County Treasurer Kevin Gardner told The Palladium-Times on Wednesday, saying the upward-trending market “very beneficial” for homeowners.

“It is in great part due to the lakeshore,” Gardner said in regards to Lake Ontario as a potential pull factor. “You have people coming from downstate, buying properties near the waterfront, it shoots the values up and they go up across the area.”

The stronger market could make for better sales for current homeowners, adding there is a national trend of people wanting to take advantage of “low mortgage rates,” Gardner said.

“People feel it is time to buy a home, they want to buy here and they are willing to pay more,” he said, noting the Tailwater Lodge in Altmar is one of the premiere draws for affluent tourists in Oswego County. “It is going to bring in more private investment and we are already seeing it.”

Working under a state-wide 2 percent property tax cap — initially instituted temporarily in 2012 and made permanent through the 2019-2020 state budget — New York cities levied approximately $69 million last year. The city of Oswego levied $12.3 million during the current fiscal period, hauling in $15.29 per every $1,000 in assessed property value.

“Taxpayers want to know how their taxes compare to other municipalities and whether their local officials are holding the line on tax increases,” DiNapoli said in a statement. ”Overall, municipalities have generally held property tax levy growth to below 2 percent for the last few years.”

School districts, one of the 3,700 independent taxing jurisdictions that can levy property taxes in New York, made up for $23 billion — or 63 percent — of all property taxes, according to the comptroller’s study. Tax records indicate Oswego City School District’s levied a total $29.5 million in taxes, at a rate of $20.60 per $1,000 of assessed value, for the 2019-2020 district budget.

Oswego County Land Bank Director Kim Park’s organization aims to address the issues of vacant and abandoned properties in Oswego and Park noted factors such as median incomes in the county going up contribute to the higher assessments.

“When you have a property in extreme distress, it doesn’t just drag the value of the houses to the left and the right of the property it sometimes drags down the value of the whole street,” Park said in a Wednesday interview, adding one of the Land Bank’s core functions is to rehabilitate properties and usher them into the tax rolls.

Refurbishing the properties, Park said, can provide “spillover” added value to nearby properties and sometimes entire blocks.

“Some of those can also be demoed and that might also increase value to surrounding properties in that respect,” she said.

Earlier this autumn, the county held its annual Tax Auction in Mexico, offering bidders a selection of approximately 125 foreclosed properties.

The auction on tax delinquent properties was managed by Schenectady County-based Collar City Auctions and raised approximately $1.48 million.

While the total raised was lower than in last year’s auction, which netted closer to $2 million, Gardner qualified the earnings as both “a good thing and a bad thing.”

“We don’t want to promote taking people’s properties,” he said. “There was an outrageous amount of interest, way more than I have seen for the auction. It is a better situation for the county when you have more people because they drive the prices up and promote more competition.”

Oswego County News, Nov. 13, 2019

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