Malta residents challenge assessments

"My parents bought it in 1978," said Michael Gaige, 31, who owns a home at the southwestern end of Saratoga Lake in the town. Gaige is back and forth between work and the lakefront home, but it is his permanent residence, he said. He recently came back from working in the south to his new assessment.

Gaige's home went from an assessed value of $135,000 to $310,000. Another parcel he owns behind the house, a landlocked quarter acre of wetland that had been assessed at $5,400, was raised to $39,000, he said. All in two years.

"We are getting assessed out of our homes. To me that's zoning by economic class, and that's why the system isn't fair," he said.

Gaige's comments drew applause at the 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning meeting. At one point Gaige called the system of taxation "archaic."

Otis and representatives of GAR Associates, the real-estate appraisers and consultants that helped the town conduct the reassessment, nodded in agreement with Gaige's comments.

Gaige is one of many residents who have already expressed anger and frustration over the reassessments, both at the meeting and ever since the notice was mailed earlier in the month.

Otis said before the weekend meetings that the town is expecting many people to lash out at the figures, and she encourages them to so that they may understand how Malta came to the recent assessments.

"They are stretched as far as they can be stretched. Real property tax has become a burden it never intended to be," said Otis.

Recent figures show that lower-end homes in the town are appreciating because of demand. Starter homes that had cost around $150,000 are now valued at $225,000, she said. At the other end of the scale, homes in the town's south end, mostly in Country Knolls North, the bastion of 1960s suburban growth in the area, have depreciated.""

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