In a move that supporters say will improve local property tax fairness, the Niskayuna town board has taken the first step toward a complete reassessment of property values in the suburban community.
The process could lead to the first revaluation of properties throughout the town since 1997, and significantly change the assessed value of local homes and businesses.
Town officials are quick to point out that higher assessments will not necessarily mean higher tax bills and that the entire process is meant to be revenue neutral.
We want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, said town Supervisor Luke Smith. `We’re going to raise the same amount of taxes.
`A town wide revaluation is not a revenue raising tool, it’s a fairness tool,` Smith said.
Approval of a resolution notifying state officials that Niskayuna was preparing to go ahead came after Amy Houlihan, the town assessor, gave a presentation at Tuesday night’s board meeting. In it she stressed the importance of keeping local tax rolls up to date. Without a revaluation some property owners could be stuck with more than their share of property taxes, she said.
Town board member Bill Chapman picked up on that theme after the vote.
`This is a lengthy process that could last a couple of years before we decide whether to approve new tax rolls, and we want to make sure that our property taxes are based on the correct values,` he said. `Not more than that and not less than that.`
Property taxes can be a political hot potato, and Smith acknowledged that, saying revaluations `are not unanimously popular positions for towns to undertake.` The supervisor added that it is necessary because of changes in the town’s equalization rate. That’s a figure set by the state Office of Real Property Services meant to reflect the difference between the values listed on assessment rolls and the actual selling prices of properties.
State officials don’t have the legal authority to force a town to reassess its property values, but a lower equalization rate can lead to reductions in state aid for local school districts. State government also has an incentive program that gives towns $5 per parcel to keep records up to date. In Niskayuna, with 8,371 properties, that’s nearly $42,000 a year.
Niskayuna is just the latest in a series of local towns that have examined its tax rolls in the light of soaring residential property values and out of date records. Last year neighboring Rotterdam narrowly approved a controversial revaluation believed to be the first in that community’s history. Recently New Scotland and Bethlehem, two suburban towns in Albany County, have also encountered the ire of local homeowners after revising their tax rolls.“