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Property revaluation impacts taxpayers and school district

NORTH EAST — Earlier this year, the town of North East conducted a revaluation of property in the town. New information shows that the revaluation has had significant negative impact on taxes and the Webutuck School District.The new assessment of property values in North East has shifted the distribution of the tax burden among the towns served by the Webutuck School District. With the new assessment, the tax levy for North East will increase by $301,580.69.The 2011-12 school year budget approved in May increased $446,813 or 2.26 percent over 2010-11 and the tax levy increased by $235,943.In other words, because of the new property assessments, North East taxpayers will be footing the bill for the entire increase of the school budget tax levy — and then an additional $65,637.69 on top of that.Since the combined value of all properties in North East increased from $361,327,306 to $411,237,741 due to the revaluation while the accumulative property values in other towns decreased or modestly increased, the percentage that the taxpayers in North East will pay has increased from 37.752 percent to 39.504 percent.The taxpayers of Ancram, Amenia, Dover, Stanford and Washington who live in the Webutuck School District will pay lower taxes this year than they did last year.The Webutuck Board of Education (BOE) held a special meeting on the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 23, to discuss this issue.All board members said they were frustrated and angered that their best efforts to keep the budget increase as low as possible have been negated for the North East taxpayers because of circumstances that were out of their control.“I really hate living in the town of North East and listening to people saying, ‘Keep the taxes down,’ and not being able to do that,” said board President Dale Culver.Culver said that North East chose to do the revaluation against the advice of the school board. He said that the school board saw this problem ahead of time and asked North East to reject the revaluation.“It’s like seeing a train wreck a year ahead of time and everyone buys the tickets anyway,” he said.Culver said that when the board asked North East not to reassess the properties, the town insisted that the revaluation would not drastically change the overall value of the town properties and would not impact the school district.“We got torched,” said Culver. “It’s criminal that we’re in this spot. The town told everybody it won’t be that bad, but it’s worse.”The town was not obligated to listen to the advice of the school board.Culver and other board members expressed fear that the public will think that the school board lied to them and wanted to make it clear that the school district had no say in the new redistribution of the tax burden or the percentage paid by each town in the district.The school board created a budget and had it approved by the public. The distribution of the tax levy was decided by the state based on information provided by local governments.“We told the public that we would raise the tax levy 1.98 percent and we did just that. Beyond that, we had no control,” said Mary Grden, the district’s business administrator.“We have no say, no discretion,” said Judy Moran.“I feel terrible for senior citizens and young people starting out,” said Culver, adding that there are a lot of people in North East who are on fixed incomes and will find it very difficult to find the extra money to cover the unexpectedly large increase in the school tax.Board member John Perotti said that the higher taxes in North East will also increase the burden on farms in the town. He said that it is already significantly cheaper to own a farm in other towns.During the meeting, the board also discussed other ways the North East reassessment will impact the district.Grden explained that the increase in the property values within the district will result in a decrease in the amount of state aid that Webutuck will receive.State aid is based on the district’s available wealth as determined by local property values and income compared with state averages.The Webutuck School District is already ranked by the state as above average in wealth. The increase in property values will push Webutuck’s wealth even higher in the eyes of the state, which will mean the district will be eligible for less state aid.Since the state aid wealth evaluations lag a few years behind, Grden said that the district will not know the full impact the property reassessments will have on the district’s aid for another few years.The board also discussed how the higher taxes in North East will impact the school budget.The 2011-12 budget put aside only $3,000 for tax certioraris.Grden predicts that the higher taxes in North East will result in a higher number of certioraris, which are court-ordered actions to have taxes lowered.Since the certioraris are covered by the school district, any costs over the first $3,000 will have to be taken from elsewhere in the budget, said Grden.Culver believes this will cause “huge problems in the budget.”Perotti believes that the problems caused by this will be long-lasting and could also affect the district’s ability to pass the budget next year.The property revaluation in North East will affect the town’s other taxes as well, but the school board believes the town will be most surprised by the school tax bill because that will be the first tax bill that residents receive.Town assessor Katherine Johnson said that the revaluation needed to happen because the town knew that there was a significant number of properties that were incorrectly valued.During the revaluation, some properties saw their value reassessed lower while others saw their value increase or stay the same.“Only people with significant increases in value will see big increases in their taxes,” said Johnson.She said that since the amount paid per thousand of the property’s assessment value has gone down, only those who saw an assessment value increase of more than 8 percent will see an increase in their tax bills.The amount paid per thousand of assessed value dropped 77 cents in North East.

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