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LETTER: Assessments aim to keep properties at market value

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

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Comments

keithwiggand 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Ms. Sasso:

Your response to the plight of landowners and businesses in town is disgusting. You apparently have absolutely no concept of land ownership and the pride that is inherent in the American Dream.

Landowners are a different lot. Many are farmers, although they commonly are descended from farming or allow farmers to use their land for a small fee. Many tracts of this open land or "Greenspace" as YOU like to call it, are not used at all, they just sit there and suck up carbon dioxide and produce oxygen for us to breathe. Many of these open lands are covered with trees, which is certainly a benefit to the rest of the community because of its' beauty. Landowners don't typically sell their land, they like to keep it. In many cases, they allow people in the community to use their land, hunt, fish, ride 4 wheelers and snowmobiles. Their land is a source of community pride and beauty, and an asset that cannot be replaced once lost.

They could cut down every single tree and fill in every single little pond if they wanted to.

But in most cases, they don't.

These landowners don't make their living off of the land. They just let it be. Wildlife abounds on these parcels. And they pay their taxes. For decades, sometimes centuries.

And they don't use ANY PUBLIC SERVICES.

Well, Ms. Sasso, you know what?

YOU have just caused landowners to reassess their pride associated with owning large tracts of land. YOU have caused these people to begin the process of SELLING THEIR PROPERTY.

500% increases in land taxes are draconian, to say the least. We were assessed in 2006 at 100%, then the crash of 2008 came. Now we are being reassessed as if we can sell our land in a day and cash in for these monster land values. Well, Ms. Sasso, we can't.

Farmers won't buy it.

Guys like me won't buy it.

DEVELOPERS WILL BUY IT.

Great, Ms. Sasso. Keep defending this irresponsible policy. Homeowners might save on their taxes. But it is the homeowner who is going to eventually suffer for your mistake.

YOU apparently believe that government can control land use better than the individual landowner. Government can curtail landowner rights. We'll just pass another law. Government is ALWAYS the answer for you people.

It will not work. It has not worked in communities that have done this. Colonie. Guilderland. Altamont. East Greenbush. All failures in their own right. And packed to the gills with DEVELOPMENT.

You cannot stop us from selling our property. You cannot stop us from developing our property. You cannot stop us from logging our property.

You know why? WE have this little piece of paper called the Constitution on our side.

So, this little socialist "redistribution of wealth" experiment is going to fail. Wait and see. Of course, YOU will probably personally profit from it. Watch for all of the FOR SALE signs to pop up in a neighborhood near you.

God Bless the Town of Bethlehem. You're gonna need it.

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Jdievendorf 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The idea that these reassessed values reflect market price is preposterous. My property on Delaware avenue was reassessed in 2011 to 177k, and now a mere three years later, 269k a 46% increase. My building is 1687 square feet. The building two doors down from me is 4600 square feet, and has been on the market for years. They are currently asking for 450k and still no sale. If you think my building is worth 259k I welcome you to find me a buyer at that (according to you) market value price. And maybe while you are at it you can help the people two doors down at the same time.

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