Spa City wants more from condos

The City of Saratoga Springs managed to pass a budget without a tax increase for 2009, but economic pressures are forcing the municipality to look elsewhere to squeeze out every ounce of revenue possible, including the way some properties are assessed.

Commissioner of Accounts John Franck is urging the city to support state legislation that would change the value placed on condominiums, churning out more property taxes for the city.

Under the Condominium Act of 1964, a condo building is assessed as a single entity, rather than the sum of its parts. It also builds in a ceiling on the aggregate value of the condominium units, leading to what some say is a discrepancy in the assessment of such properties.

At a Tuesday, Jan. 6, meeting of the City Council, Franck used an example of a house and condominium building with approximately the same square footage. Though the condo building has a sale price of $1.3 million and the home $575,000, the condo's assessed value is actually less than that of the house, at $453,000.

Franck says that such instances are unfair, and mean that the city isn't collecting the taxes it should be entitled to.

Franck was not available for comment for this report.

Some argue, however, that low property taxes for condominiums is exactly what has allowed them to flourish in downtown Saratoga Springs and keep that area economically prosperous.

I can appreciate wanting to raise money for the city, but you have to be careful how you do it, said Keith Ferrara, chief operations officer at Bonacio Construction Inc., a local builder who has done a number of condominium projects in the Spa City.

"They revitalized the downtown area," he said of condominiums. "If the tax structure had been different, we may not have been able to build the buildings we built."

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