So let’s talk about the property reassessment project that is currently in its final stages in the Town of Bethlehem. If you read The Spotlight, you may have heard a thing or two about it — first, from reporter Marcy Velte’s coverage, with an initial story dating back to almost a year ago when the whole thing got under way; and second, through the recent letters and comments that have made their way onto our letters to the editor pages and online forums.
This is clearly a topic that has spurred some impassioned conversation about what it means to be a property owner in town, and many of those arguments were aired at a recent Town Board meeting.
But before we talk about the reassessment, let’s get some things out of the way that are only counterproductive to a real and honest discussion about where we go from here.
First of all, the reassessed values were not assigned in a way meant to penalize or reward property owners based on their political affiliation. The fact is, some numbers went up, some stayed the same, and some went down — all across the political spectrum. And those facts are out there for anybody with a computer and a little bit of time to check out for themselves. Both the property values from 2013 and the preliminary values from 2014 can be found on the town’s website, www.townofbethlehem.org, on the assessor’s page.
Second, not doing a reassessment is not a viable long-term option. The last reassessment in Bethlehem was in 2006, and since that time, the stalled assessed value of some larger commercial properties had made it impossible to get a fair taxable value on new large businesses moving into town. One of the major impetuses for the current reassessment, as Marcy reported a year ago, was to make sure those new businesses were paying their fair share. And, as per state law, a town can not simply pick and choose what to assess; the process must cover every property in town.