Is it time?
It's been 40 years since the town of Pomfret has undergone a property revaluation and the town board held a workshop session Wednesday to learn more about the process - and possible expense - of such an undertaking.
Robert E. Koszarek of KLW Appraisal Group of Buffalo presented the board with information on what the process will entail and its possible costs, depending on the type and amount of work that could be done inhouse by Pomfret Assessor Kevin Muldowney's office.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Robert E. Koszarek of KLW Appraisal Group of Buffalo presents information on a possible reval of Pomfret properties during a workshop meeting of the town board Wednesday as Councilwoman Ann Eckman looks on.
Councilwoman Ann Eckman invited Koszarek to present his information at the workshop, which Supervisor Donald Steger and first-year councilmen Christopher Schaeffer and Brett Christy also attended, along with Muldowney, former board member Rod Pennica and several interested residents.
Koszarek began by giving a history of his firm's experience with revaluation proceedings, various options the board could select, and rough estimates of the cost involved. Depending on the work hired out, that cost could go as high as $500,000, although board members had plenty of questions about lower-priced alternatives.
Koszarek explained New York state does provide some financial aid over a six-year period if certain conditions are met, although reimbursement rates have changed over the years. At present, $5 per parcel for the first and sixth years of the six-year process the state recommends is offered with $2 per parcel in the intervening years, if the town meets the state requirements.
Koszarek said the best thing a municipality can do is maintain 100 percent valuation of its properties, that way the state won't be setting an equalization rate that may or may not result in equal taxation for all property owners. He added one of the things a full market valuation can enhance is the sales tax distribution a municipality receives.
Muldowney was concerned that it's been 40 years since the last full reval of the town's 6,497 parcels. That figure is broken down into 3,766 residential properties; 1,639 parcels that are vacant; 307 commercial; 278 agricultural; 202 industrial; 152 community service; 121 public service and 32 recreation and entertainment properties.
Koszarek said a full revaluation would update the town's records, including pictures of all properties along with dimensions of buildings and lots. Property owners would have the option of allowing reval workers inside their homes or keeping workers off their properties completely.
Koszarek said his experience has been a full reval would result in an increase in the workload of the town's board of assessment review for one year, something Muldowney echoed from his work during the city of Dunkirk's reval in the 1990s.
Board members had questions about every aspect of a reval, which Koszarek did his best to answer, admitting when he didn't have one. After some 90 minutes of back and forth, the session ended with the board thanking Koszarek for his information sharing. If the board were to decide on going with a reval project, it would seek bids on the project.
After the meeting Steger, who had the most questions, was asked what was next.
"This has been a process that we've talked about for many years that I've been involved with it. I still personally have problems with the cost involved," he replied. "The board is going to have to basically determine if they're willing to pass that cost along and how it's going to be passed along. It certainly can't be a one-time tax that goes across, so some planning will have to be involved if they want to do this. Not only over the two years it's going to take to do this, but over more than two to collect what it's going to cost per parcel to be kept up."
Steger said the town has received no pressure from the state to do a reval.
"My understanding is there are communities at the eastern end of the state that are in single digit equalization rates. We actually have maintained, over the last 12-15 years, right in that 20 to 24 percent equalization rate. This is the lowest we've been at 20.21," he explained.
Steger was asked if the state may at some point require a full reval from all municipalities.
"I think the whole process is going to have to evolve from there, where they're not going to have a local assessor," he replied. "It's going to have to become more of a large-scale operation where regions, counties or whatever the case may be, are put under the big umbrella.
"It was interesting information, I enjoyed it."
What the board will do about the issue remains to be seen. The board is scheduled to meet again on April 9 at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall.
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