Editor, The Spotlight:
I am writing in regards to the Bethlehem town-wide reassessment. Everyone has received their reassessment notification, public awareness workshops have been held, and the informal grievance process is under way. My observation, as a town board member and as a local realtor, is that by and large, residential property owners are seeing modest or no increase in their assessed value while the assessed value of commercial and vacant land parcels have increased(and in some cases quite significantly). The total taxable value in Bethlehem, based on the new preliminary assessments, has increased by approximately 10% so the good news is that if your property assessment increased by less than 10% your share of the tax burden is likely lower than it was. The bad news is that 72% of vacant land parcels had their value increased by more than 25%.
It is standard practice for municipalities to regularly reassess all properties (residential, commercial, vacant land) so that the tax values remain in line with market value –the price at which your property would likely sell on the open market. NYS recommends conducting a reassessment every 4 years, which makes sense as market value fluctuates and without regular revaluations, property assessments can slip out of line with market value. This results in some properties bearing more of the tax burden than they should and others bearing less. In the ideal, every property would be assessed at its accurate market value and every property owner would be paying their fair share of the property tax levy.
Bethlehem last reassessed properties in 2006 so we were overdue for a revaluation. Apparently the ball was dropped on fully assessing commercial and vacant land in past reassessments (they weren’t reassessed at all in 2006 and not fully assessed in 1998) and the result is that many are experiencing a “kick in the gut” as one land owner described it to me, because it had been so long since their properties were fully assessed. There will be a presentation at the April 9th town board meeting (6pm) concerning the valuation of vacant land and I encourage interested town members to attend. If you have specific questions or comments regarding the reassessment process, you have an opportunity to voice those at the start of the meeting.
If you feel that your property is not assessed at current market value (or if you feel like the assessment is out of whack with other similar properties), you can, and should, schedule an informal review (call 1-800-910-1776 before 4/11). You are also entitled to contest your assessment by filing a written complaint on or before Grievance Day, which is May 27th. For more information on Grievance Day go to the Assessor’s office page on www.townofbethlehem.org.
Julie Sasso Bethlehem Town Board member