A property reassessment in the city of Little Falls will redistribute the tax levy and measure shifts in individual tax responsibilities.
“It will not increase or decrease the tax levy and it will not address the growing public demand for consideration of ‘ability to pay,’” James Basile, president of Oneonta-based Basile Associates, said during Wednesday evening’s public hearing on a possible reassessment of the city. “The property tax doesn’t care if you can pay your bill or not.”
The public hearing in the auditorium of Benton Hall Academy was the fourth time Basile has presented information on a citywide reassessment to members of the Common Council and the community. The city is considering its first reassessment since the 1970s.
“This reassessment or reappraisal is not about raising additional tax moneys, it’s about a fair distribution of the taxes the city collects,” said Mayor Robert Peters.
Basile said as one property or group of properties increases or decreases in value quicker than others, that property or group pays a greater or lesser portion of the tax levy.
“A reappraisal would ensure all real property in each assessing unit — residential, commercial or industrial — is assessed at a uniform percentage of value,” he said.
Basile added during a reassessment an appraiser would collect, verify and analyze property data; analyze sale, lease and construction data to develop valuation models; produce estimates of value for each parcel; reconcile value estimates for each parcel and provide assessment notification by March 1 for individual levy proportion changes.
“A reappraisal of all parcels in the city will improve equitable distribution of the tax levy and would establish a framework for periodic reappraisal in the future,” he said.
“We have a large number of senior citizens living on fixed incomes in the city, so the question is if they can afford to pay their share of the taxes after the reassessment,” said Second Ward Alderwoman Betty Deming. “I would hate to see senior citizens who have been living in their homes for years lose them because they couldn’t pay their taxes.”
“There are families that own homes in the city that are just scraping by and have a tough time paying the taxes they pay now. There has to be a way to help these families out if the reassessment makes their share of the taxes too much for them to bear,” said Fourth Ward Alderman Richard Congdon. “I don’t want to see people have to sell their home.”
Basile said if a homeowner’s assessment increased as a result of a citywide reassessment it would not necessarily mean their property taxes would increase.
“A property’s assessment reflects its market value. As this value increases or decreases and the property’s assessment does not reflect this change, the homeowner could pay more than their fair share of taxes or less than their fair share of taxes,” he said. “A reappraisal is intended to restore fairness within the city, which may involve shifting the taxes among types of property throughout the community. It is possible for a property’s assessment to increase and for the homeowner not to see any increase in their taxes.”
Page 2 of 2 - Basile added while it is not uncommon for municipalities like the city of Little Falls to go long periods of time between reassessments, the longer the period of time between reappraisals the more likely taxpayers will experience tax shifts.
“Municipalities have any number of reasons for not going through a reappraisal and many times it comes down to the human element. Property taxes don’t take into account if a person can afford to pay them or not, and that is reason enough for some city, town or village councils to decide against a reappraisal,” he said.
“With a large number of people in the city out of work on unemployment, living on welfare or working part-time jobs just to keep up with their bills I am concerned about a reassessment. If Little Falls was a booming city I would absolutely support it, but that’s not what he have here. Because of that there are things we need to consider,” said Deming. “I don’t want to see more homes go up for sale.”
At the mayor’s request, Basile will gather reappraisal information on a sampling of properties throughout the city for a future presentation. The information will be presented at a future public hearing in the Benton Hall Academy auditorium, said Peters.
Basile Associates has not been hired by the city to conduct a reappraisal and Basile could not provide information on how much a reappraisal would cost to complete when questioned by Second Ward Alderman David Burleson.
“I would depend on the scope of work,” said Basile.