Government

Town’s Revaluation Project Winding Down

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The Town Board will decide on the Homestead Option in February Credits: Bob Dumas
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MAHOPAC, N.Y.— After a year’s extension, the town of Carmel’s revaluation project is coming down the home stretch and officials say it will wrap up in the coming months—possibly as soon as the end of December.

According to Councilman Jonathan Schneider, who is the Town Board’s liaison to the project, property owners can expect to get the first bill that reflects the new valuations when their school tax bills arrive in September 2017.

The Town Board decided to extend the revaluation project an extra year to make sure the data gathered was properly vetted and taxpayers were thoroughly informed before any decisions were made. All 13,000 parcels in town (both commercial and residential) have been visited. The town contracted Massachusetts-based Vision Government Solutions three years ago at a cost of $800,000 to perform the revaluation. Edye McCarthy, the town’s reassessment monitor, said the town will not have to pay Vision Government Solutions for the additional year.

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 It has been 20 years since the town underwent a revaluation.

“The timeline initiated from the outset of this project was based on having values as of July 1, 2015, with all improvements through March 1, 2016, being accounted for,” Schneider said. “These values are used for the upcoming tax rolls.”

However, the Town Board decided to further vet the information that Vision Government Solutions put together, wanting to make sure everything was as accurate as possible. Consequently, Schneider said, the town assessor’s office is in the throes of performing a “field verification” of Vision’s data.

“The assessor is going to some parcels and confirming that the information is accurate,” the councilman said. “Field verification is to make sure the values are more in line with what the assessor’s office believes. They are confirming the values. They do it both randomly and on demand to get a cross-section of types [of properties] and locations. They want to get as much data as they can before moving forward.”

McCarthy said certain properties may require a re-inspection for “verification of inventory,” such as the number of rooms and finished basements.

“We are in the final stages of the review and we anticipate to be finished by the third week of December,” she said. “However, the review process will continue…until the entire project is completed.”

After the field verification is complete, the town will receive a tax-shift analysis, which will show the percentage of residential vs. commercial property before and after the revaluation.

“That way we will see where the biggest burden lies,” Schneider said. “The tax-shift analysis will be the driving force on the Homestead Option decision.”

The Homestead Option has been the most contentious aspect of the revaluation project.

“Homestead is such a small part of a reassessment project, but it’s where the most vocal feedback is coming from,” Schneider said.

The Homestead Option provides towns with the means to change the way condominium units are valued. Currently, in Carmel, condos are assessed in terms of potential rental income (like a commercial property, aka “restricted value”). However, if the Town Board adopts the Homestead Option, they would be assessed the same way as a single-family household.

“We received hundreds of letters from condo owners and we wanted them to have more than just a few weeks to digest the Homestead Option,” Schneider said, explaining why the Town Board decided to extend the revaluation project for another year. “We felt [the public] wouldn’t have enough time to digest it and it wasn’t fair to do that to the taxpayers. We want it to be thorough and fair.”

McCarthy said the deadline for the Town Board’s decision on the Homestead Option is February.

“There is a tremendous amount of work that will need to be completed if the Town Board opts into the Homestead Option and for various reasons,” she said. “Once the Town Board has the info that is necessary to make a decision one way or the other, the sooner the better for all parties because that will determine what happens next.  Depending what happens [this month], they may have enough to make a decision [on Homestead] even earlier.

“If they do opt in, then condo units will be valued based on market value and we start the disclosure process,” McCarthy continued. “If they don’t opt into Homestead, then the condos will reflect the restricted values—as is currently the case under state real property law.”

McCarthy said the disclosure process will illustrate what past tax bills would have been for a piece of property under the new assessed values.

“Each property owner will get a letter showing that information in March,” she said. “But we don’t start that process until we know if the town is adopting the Homestead Option or not because we would be using a different value for condominiums and that would change the tax rate for every property owner.”

McCarthy noted that the revaluation project does not mean the town will collect more tax revenue. The levy will remain the same, but there will be a shift in who pays how much.

“This is a revenue-neutral project,” she said. “All of the taxing jurisdictions will not collect additional revenue. It is a reallocation of the funds for the operating budget. And there will be more than ample time for all property owners to review their new values and have discussions with the town’s contractors to affirm the newer assessment.”

If a property owner wants to challenge their new assessment, it’s recommended that they prepare documentation—such as a market analysis or appraisal—to prove their assessment is either correct or incorrect. Town officials said property owners should start preparing for that now for when they get their letters in March.

The Town Board will hold an information session on the revaluation project at its Dec. 14 meeting. Property owners are encouraged to attend.

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