Saturday, March 03, 2007

Reval Blog - Update

To say that I am livid is an understatement; I am beside myself with the mailing of the reassessment notices from MJW the other day. In 2004, the Town of East Fishkill entered into an agreement with several other towns and cities (Wappinger, Fishkill, Beekman, etc.) to have one company perform a joint revaluation of our properties. I believe that the concept and reasons for the reval are sound and, to be sure, this is a huge undertaking, eight cities and towns. Also, I do not think that there is anyone that does not agree that the computer program that MJW has developed is truly an excellent program. I do think that there have been problems with the “on - the - ground” data collection of the firm and their response.

What I am furious about is that Mr. Watch (of MJW) refused to take into account issues and concerns raised by our Assessor (who is, herself, a very experienced and recognized assessor) in the weeks before the mailing. When I was told Thursday afternoon that the mailers were going out regardless of our concerns I tried in vain to contact Mr. Watch. I did finally reach him Friday morning (to be honest, it was better that I did not see him in person). He kept trying to change the subject, but I pointed out in no uncertain terms that when our Assessor has a problem with his values, it is his responsibility to address that problem.

The issue with the mailing this last week is twofold. One, I think that the time frames established early - on in this process were difficult to maintain and did not allow adequate time to review the data (yet, problems identified were not always corrected by MJW). Still, the time frames were designed to allow a significant period to address and change values that are in question (myself, I would have allowed much more time for review so that there was less needed for correction; but, that is me).

I am not an assessor but I have learned a lot about the subject in the last few weeks. The Town Tax Assessment Rolls have to be certified by our Assessor and the New York State Office of Real Property. Although Mr. Watch is a contract vendor for the Southern Dutchess Consortium that is doing the reval, MR. WATCH IS NOT, NOR WILL HE EVER BE, THE TOWN OF EAST FISHKILL ASSESSOR, and it is only the Assessor that has the authority to certify the tax rolls.

That said; it is now up to our Assessor’s Office to review the valuations of those parcels that are in question. So, what do you do? If there are questions regarding your assessment; first, call the number on the assessment mailer, then notify our Assessors at 226-6353 or stop in. Our Assessors have a big task in front of them, but know that our people will work to make this fair – please have patience and understand that this will be resolved. Thank you.

There's obviously something wrong when in my case my increase is 23.3% just based on the 2006 levy and I live in a 1,118 sq ft 42 year old ranch that still has a 42 year old kitchen and no major updates or additions.

I called the assessors office and they were supposed to have someone call me back this week, I'm sure they're busy though.

Somehow it feels like the burden % increase wise is going to weigh on those that aren't enjoying the benefits of a 3 car garage Mc'Mansion who have recently discovered our town. I guess that's the price we pay averaged out..but for what? more congestion, over crowded schools and an eroding of cummunity identity?

I hope someone can help me and point out exactly what about my house warrants a +23.3% greater than average increase .. and that's based on on the 2006 levy.
Thank you for the update. It is good to know that someone else thinks something is wrong.

That being said, I have to tell you that I see this activity as one more example of government that is borderline out of control. Because of this exercise,many people, like myself, are now calling real estate agents, looking for house values on the Web, and generally taking personal time I can spend with family and friends to try and figure out what the next "fairness" and "equity" initiative is going to do to me and my family. Watching government at all levels is getting to be a full time job. The number one problem is "Government Cost Too Much", or GCTM.

I appreciate your efforts, but I figure I can only afford one more governement activity concerning "fairness" and "equity" before my family has to move.
I would caution anyone who reads the response which details a 23.3% increase relevant to a 1,118 sq ft home. How many acres is the property? When was the last time this home was revalued? To place things in perspective, 23.3% of 5K a year in taxes equates to a 1,165K a year increase (or ~$97 per month). Not much when compared to a 23.3% increase of a newer home on say a smaller lot currently paying 13K per year. 23.3% of 13K equates to 3,029K per year (or ~$252 per month). Who feels the pain more?
Why don't we focus on the more important issues such as what are we actually getting for our money and where is it going? Here are some of the things that we don't get:
1. street cleaning
2. waste management services
3. town water
4. town sewers
to mention a few.

Now lets really focus on the bulk of our taxes which are imposed by the school board and voted on by the residents. The school board IS OUT OF CONTROL! Apparently they feel that we have deep pockets and plenty of cash to throw around. So here is my prediction, if we do not wake up and get control of the school board I guarantee that our towns will become a revolving door for folks who can no longer afford the taxes. The towns will embark of instituting programs in order to maintain their employees by utilizing federal funding (only need to look into the history of the city of Yonkers, NY for the best example). Before you know it we will have a bunch of federally subsidized welfare towns with significant crime rates, rehab centers, and properties that are worth zero.
Stop focusing on the myopic issues of what the assessors have calculated and rather focus on the bigger picture of why this is occuring. The school district has religiously each and every year increases its budget significantly. 2005-2006 7.91% increase, 2006-2007 10.45% increase, 2007-2008???
Next time you go to vote think about your subsequent tax increase.
In response to School_taxes_out_of_control; While I do agree with your statement regarding school taxes and the fact we get very little for the high taxes we pay, your view on the reassessment is comparing apples to oranges. I would say that the older homeowners will most definitely feel the "hit" more than the newer homeowners who had the luxury of knowing exactly what their taxes were when they bought their homes.

In the 1st scenario, the home is 42 years old with no major updates and has annually been adjusted for inflation/market value through the formula provided by the state. That home is undoubtedly worth FAR LESS than your example #2 which explains the gap you portray.

Your hypothetical home #2 ( and I say hypothetical because you never stated an actual home as #1 did) is undoubtedly a fairly new home worth hundreds of thousands more than #1 (Sagamore, Legends, 4 Corners,etc). I have had the opportunity to speak with a number of people regarding their assesments and so far not one has had a decrease in taxes (not to say there are not any, I just have not spoken to any). The older homeowners are getting hit with HUGE unexpected increases in their taxes. Further, you fail to take into account that those same people that have been paying taxes in this area for many years have long contributed to the infrastructure and services that made it viable for the big developers to come in and build those homes here.

To the best of my knowledge, that is not happening with the newer homeowners that had the luxury of knowing what their taxes would be when they purchased those big houses. For the most part, they were more than happy to pay the taxes as most were upsizing from homes sold down in Westchester at huge profits and the size of their homes and taxes levied were considered a bargain at the time. Now as the market is declining, interest rates are rising and the cost of commuting and energy has gone through the roof those big new homes are no longer as attractive and many sit empty or in the process of foreclosure which is at an all time high. Is this an effort to save those at the expense of the long time residents? John Hickman stated in an earlier blog that "this is not a money making proposition". If that is true, then why is the majority seeing a SUBSTANTIAL increase in taxes?

The fact is that the real estate market is on a decline and this new revaluation is already behind 2 years and not valued according to the current market.

Fianally, to address the school tax statement as a myopic issue, who is being nearsighted here? The reassessment is absolutely relevant to the school tax issue as your reassessment will determine how much more you will pay in school taxes and already there is talk of another big increase. I agree the school board is and has been out of control. I vote on every budget (usually NO!) but past practice was they would just keep putting it up vor a re vote until people got frustrated and it finally pased. The new farce....I mean trend, is the contingency budget which usually gets them the numbers they are really looking for anyhow.

One of the things I find most puzzling is that the town population has exploded in recent years and along with it a huge rise in the tax base due to the multitude of new "high end" homes built, yet the student population was actually less in 2004-2005 (12,312) then it was in 1996-97 (12,641). In 1999-2000 it actually dropped to 11,639. Funny thing is that if you go to Wcsd web site,
( while they list data from 1997-2005, they "no longer publish" 1997-98 and 1999-2000. I had to find the 99-2000 data elsewhere (geez...wonder why those 2 years worth of data are no longer published?). Every year our school taxes rise substantially with nothing substantial to show for it. I wish someone could explain how that works.

To John Hickman: I think this blog is a great idea, but I propose a better one and it can be done free of charge with google (just like this blog).
Set up an open forum where people can post and exchange ideas anonymously if you want to really get your pulse on the people of this towns true thoughts. It is a far better better medium for
a two way exchange of ideas.
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