S-G taxes more than predicted

Assessment challenges shrink district tax base, increase burden

— “The Target by March 1 did not look like Target does right now,” school district spokesman Robert Hanlon said. “The full assessment will be higher than that.”

The Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority provided an exemption from sales tax for construction material and equipment used to set up the two new retail buildings at Target’s site. Metroplex also provided an $180,000 grant toward infrastructure costs.

The remaining reductions to the district’s tax base stemmed from individual or small businesses’ assessment changes.

Last year, $6 million was dropped from the district’s tax base. School officials used some of its reserves to supplement for the loss last year and were able to keep the tax rate closer to predictions. The district can’t afford the hit this time.

“This year we can’t do that, because we’ve tapped our fund balance and there just isn’t the fund balance to use anymore,” Hanlon said. “This isn’t a tremendous amount of money to go up.”

Every year the district relies on the town assessor for figures on where the tax base will fall after the court settles on assessment challenges. Sometimes there would be a positive change to the tax burden residents face, but the fiscal climate is not making that common.

“In the past, what you would also have … is if there was an unexpected increase in aid,” Hanlon said. “But that is not happening anymore.”

The district’s account to reimburse residents or businesses for assessment challenges stands at about $600,000 after the current reductions.

“We know people are challenging their taxes, and we need to have an account to reimburse them for what they’ve overpaid,” Hanlon said.

Hanlon said there are still some assessment challenges in the pipeline, including one for Lowe’s on Freemans Bridge Road, but it can be hard to predict what, if any, reduction will be awarded.

Lowe’s filed a challenge last year and is seeking a “massive reduction,” he said, but he doubts it will be fully awarded.

“When you put in a challenge, it is kind of like asking for a pay raise,” Hanlon said. “You always ask for more than you think you are going to get.”

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