HANOVER - The equalization rate in the town of Hanover slipped below 100 percent this year for the first time in five years.
In 2006, the Hanover Town Board decided to do a reassessment of the properties in the town and since then has had a 100 percent equalization rate, meaning all properties were assessed at full market value.
However, this year the equalization rate slipped to 98 percent.
Due to this dip the Hanover Town Board invited Real Property Analyst Robert Wright of the state Office of Real Property Services in Batavia to discuss why it is important to maintain that 100 percent equalization rate.
Wright explained the equalization rate of a town affects school and county taxes. He said although it is not required to maintain a 100 percent equalization rate, it makes sure all tax payers pay their fair share.
"Based on the property value is what a person would pay in taxes, to do it fairly. In equalization we try to make sure if you have $100,000 property and a $100,000 property, both at full market value, that both are assessed equally and theoretically those people would pay the same amount in tax dollars within the town," he explained.
He explained cyclical re-assessment has not been mandated by the state legislature because powerful, down-state counties with single digit equalization rates oppose this due to the cost.
He said there is reimbursement available for towns opting to do a re-assessment. He said the state offers up to $5 per parcel in aid, however the cost will be between $10-$15 per parcel to do the re-assessment in-house or $40-$60 per parcel to utilize a consultant's services.
Residents and board members questioned the need for the re-assessment now, considering Pomfret has an equalization rate of 18 percent.
"By relying on the equalization rate you are relying on the assumption that we are doing our jobs right. ... We are looking at aggregate properties - the town as a whole - so our estimate is at 18 percent in the case of Pomfret, but within the town not everybody is going to be at that same level. Some might be at 10, some might be at 5, some might be at 50 (percent), so relying on that ... is probably not a good assumption to make," he explained.
He added an equalization rate of less than 100 percent means some taxpayers are overassessed and therefore paying too much in taxes and others are underassessed and are not paying their fair share.
Supervisor Todd Johnson pointed out a re-assessment does not mean all assessments will go up - some will go down and some will stay the same.
Town Budget Officer Elmar Kiefer added what is new since the last assessment of the town is the 2 percent tax levy cap, which protects tax payers from drastically higher taxes.
"Keep in mind we are now under new state laws, we were capped at 2 percent ... it's not on tax rate, which if you're assessment went up (the town) would get the benefit, but it's based on levy. So if I'm levying $1 million, next year I can only go $1 million plus 2 percent ... I cannot raise the levy 10 percent and slip it in between (the increased assessments)," he said.
Also noted at the meeting was any assessment settlements from a grievance board or court would be voided by the re-assessment, but can be re-appealed.
Wright said if the re-assessment process began this fall, data collection and analysis would take place over 2013 and notices of assessments would come out around February of 2014.
The board did not make a decision on the matter and will meet next on Sept. 10.