Paul Brown: Everything you always wanted to know about assessments, real estate taxes and more

paul-brown-SQEver wonder what the assessment is on that big house down the road and what the owners pay in taxes? Nah, me neither. How about that in-ground pool you get a glimpse of from the road? Curious about how much that adds to the assessment? Nope, me neither.

Well, good for us, since satisfying that type of curiosity was not part of the vision that led County Executive Mike Hein to encourage and support development of the user-friendly integrated information management system that is the new Ulster County Parcel Viewer, available at

Thomas Jackson, director of the Ulster County Real Property Tax Service Agency, explained that Sylvia Wohlfahrt, director of Ulster County Information Services, and her team members were the actual developers of the Parcel Viewer, which is loaded with extremely helpful Geographic Information System data and internet links to a wealth of related databases. Mr. Jackson’s staff provides the continually updated parcel data for New Paltz and other Ulster County towns through their links to local assessors’ offices. I learned that the entire operation is staffed by first-rate professionals and represents a very practical, dependable and reliable source of important information to citizens of Ulster County communities. If you try it, you will like it. Even if this type of data is not your particular cup of tea, the Parcel Viewer represents a commitment to open and transparent government, ensuring that everyone has access to the same information all the time in real time. Congratulations to all involved in the development and maintenance of this helpful tool.



What I learned about the Parcel Viewer from our town assessor’s office

Thanks to the expert coaching of Tricia Masterson, our very capable assessor aide in New Paltz, I was recently able to conduct some research in under 30 minutes that a few years ago would probably have required several visits to Town Hall and maybe several to Kingston. Locating a particular piece of property on the Parcel Viewer requires only the address or owner’s name. If you don’t have that information, you can search on the address of a property located nearby or on the name of the owner of the nearby property and then simply widen out the map to include the area you are interested in.

If you are concerned about the location of wetlands, floodplains, flood hazards and agricultural districts, a simple click of the mouse will show you if any are located near a property you are interested in. Recreational areas, hiking trails, habitat cores, ecological zones and soil maps, all in one place for your viewing pleasure. For the more politically inquisitive among us, overlays showing municipal, election, legislative and school districts are only a click away.

If visuals happen to be your thing, the Parcel Viewer beats Google Earth in that you can get really up close and personal with aerial views of individual homes and parcels. With the help of the 2013 aerial Map Viewer, you can zoom right into your own backyard. If you want to see what your home or property looked like in the past, you can do that too. I simply tapped the touchpad on my laptop and magically made the addition we built a few years ago disappear. With another tap on the touchpad, it reappeared.

Tricia discussed how helpful she finds the Parcel Viewer when residents come in to make general inquiries about their assessments or, more specifically, to make sure they’re fair and on a par with comparable properties. In the past a visit to the assessor’s office would have been almost mandatory since the old clunky version of the Parcel Viewer simply did not work well. Now, if a resident or business wants information on comparables, a few minutes on the new website will probably be all that’s needed. Tricia also reminded me that grievance day this year is May 28 and, if taxpayers would like to meet with the Board of Assessment Review, an application is available on-line at


Saying goodbye to Lorry King

The only sad note that occurred during my visit with Tricia was learning that our assessor, Lorry King, who has served our town in an exemplary fashion for the past several years, has resigned her position to pursue other opportunities closer to her home. I first met Lorry when I was chair of the Board of Assessment Review, and continued to interact with her frequently for several years after that in my role as a town Planning Board member. When I referred Planning Board applicants and Town Hall visitors to her office, I knew they would be treated with respect and would leave with the information they needed. Lorry is a class act and will be missed in the assessor’s office.

There is one comment

  1. T David

    Interesting site, Paul. I decided to try the “map layers” feature to see f I could locate the aquifer where the Wildberry Lodge is set to use at least 60,000 gallons of water a day (between Paradies Lane and S. Ohioville, am I right?) but for some reason it isn’t listed. Too bad.

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