Town Explains Property Assessment Protocols

MAHOPAC, N.Y. – It’s tax time again and town officials want to make sure you have the proper information on how your property was assessed this year and how you can challenge that assessment if you believe it is too high.

Town assessor Glen Droese, and Dave Barnett, vice president and certified general appraiser for GAR Appraisals & Associates, gave a presentation at the Town Board’s May 8 meeting in which the duo laid out the method through which the assessments were made and how unsatisfied property owners can grieve them.

In 2017, the town of Carmel went through a town-wide revaluation—the first in more than 20 years—leaving many residents stunned over how much their assessments increased. Droese said that to avoid future consternation, the town has implemented an annual assessment program that aims to:

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• Provide homeowners with a fair and equitable property assessment

• Have each property owner pay only their fair share of the tax burden

• Preserve the investment of the initial re-assessment in 2017

“In 2017, there was a town-reassessment project, and ever since then there’s been an annual maintenance program set up so that assessments based on market conditions and sales are adjusted appropriately,” Barnett said. “The goal of any re-assessment program is to ensure the property owners’ assessments are fair and equitable and they are paying no more or no less than their share of the tax burden.”

Barnett, whose company led the revaluation in 2017, said it was prudent to “maintain those [2017] assessments so we are preserving the initial and, quite frankly, unpopular but necessary reassessment project.”

“Everyone was brought up to, what was at that time, a fair market value,” he said. “In the interim years, you make those adjustments whether the market goes up or the market goes down.”

Barnett said a key component in the evaluations is the analysis of arm’s length sales. (In an arm’s length transaction, the buyers and sellers act independently and do not have any relationship to each other. The concept of an arm’s length transaction assures that both parties in the deal are acting in their own self-interest and are not subject to any pressure or duress from the other party.) He said all properties are looked at and analyzed, including commercial, residential and others.

“Property values do not change consistently across neighborhoods, property types or styles,” Barnett said. “Part of that is looking at neighborhoods. The town is broken down through neighborhood delineation to identify certain areas that are similar. When looking at sales in that neighborhood you are comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges. And now this is done annually to make sure they are still appropriate. We want to make sure assessments are consistent. The Office of Real Property Tax Services monitors and validates the results and will determine if Carmel is at 100 percent [evaluation].”

Barnett said that while the tentative tax roll has been filed, there is still plenty of time for taxpayers to have their assessments changed before the roll finalized later this summer. He said the assessor maintains an open-door policy and residents can make an appointment to discuss their assessment in person. If they are still not satisfied, they can go before the Assessment Review Board on Grievance Day—May 28—and plead their case.

Grievance forms (RP524) are available at the assessor’s office and are available online at the town’s website

“We [try to] identify inequities in certain neighborhoods—not everyone went up,” Barnett said. “Not every property is identical. If they were, I wouldn’t be here. We can’t do interior inspections, so we have to make assumptions sometimes. This isn’t a science; it’s not perfect. It’s more of an art form. I would encourage [taxpayers] to review their info and if you feel your assessment is excessive, you can present information for consideration [to get it changed].”

The tax rolls will be finalized July 1 and taxpayers will see any changes in their assessments reflected in their September tax bills.

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