Editor, The Spotlight;
The dialogue of the Bethlehem reassessment project, as reported in The Spotlight on April 30 and earlier, has brought back a flood of memories about property valuation discussions between 1965, when I first started to work on school finances issues, and the end of 1997, when I retired.
I still remember a presentation at a national conference about what was then called the “Welcome, Stranger” property valuation system. Property was only reassessed when it was sold, so community newcomers paid far more than their fair share of property taxes. Newer property owners in some of these jurisdictions were initiating legal action.
During my career, computer assisted mass appraisal techniques became available. These techniques analyze property sales and estimate values for multiple properties simultaneously and make it possible to cost-effectively assess property at market value. States, including New York, adopted laws to require jurisdictions that levy a property tax to assess property at its current value.
It has always been painful for some land owners when assessments based on current value are first introduced, but it’s very important to keep the rolls up to date and as accurate as possible. State law requires, as has been pointed out several times in the discussion, that new assessment rolls be used immediately after property owners have had an opportunity to challenge the assessment through the grievance process.
I believe that New York, and other states, elected to require that assessments based on current values be immediately implemented to avoid any appearance of what was once called a “Welcome, Stranger” property assessment system.
I congratulate the Town Board on the commitment it made to reassessment property a few years ago and would encourage it to select a date for the next reassessment in the relatively near future — to maintain a fair way to apportion property taxes Town of Bethlehem residents pay to Albany County, the Town, and school districts within the town.