A total of 69 property-owning Saugertiesians came before the town’s Board of Assessment Review on the evening of May 22 to contest their new assessments. An additional 120 people filed their grievances on paper. All applicants will be reviewed by the board in their subsequent sessions on June 11 and 18; grievers will receive news of the board’s final decision via mail.
According to Saugerties Assessor Frank Orlando, between 60 and 70 percent of those who came forward will get their assessments lowered.
“What I do is very broadly change assessments — what individual property owners are doing is bringing forward information on their property that may be a little different than what my average is… I use categories. I look at the trends in neighborhoods, I look at the trends in different styles of houses, the condition of properties, I look at trends, whether they’re good average or fair, and I also do it on an assessment basis.”
For 2018, stated Orlando, adjustments were upward for some categories of real estate. Assessments of residential properties valued between $150,000 and $200,000 went up 2 percent. Assessments of residential properties valued greater than $200,000, as well as all apartments, went up 6 percent. Properties within the village’s commercial business district had their assessed value increased 10 percent.
According to Orlando, over 5,300 notices went out this year for changes in assessment — that is 54 percent of Saugerties properties. The number of grievances fielded was “above average” this year in comparison to the 48 brought forward last year, Orlando said. While the period of grievance-listening was only supposed to run from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m., the grievance board stayed at the Frank Greco Memorial Center until nearly 11 p.m.
“You see an incredible cross section of people who live in Saugerties — that’s an amazing thing. In some ways you get a feel where they’re coming from on a person level but we have to keep it professional at the same time,” said Board of Assessment Review Chairman Al Bruno, who has volunteered to serve on the board for the last four sessions. “Sometimes it’s difficult for us — we have to separate our personal feelings from the law, what we’re allowed to do and what the correct thing to do is. My taxes went up $3,000, I get it, but to be fair to everyone across the board we need to apply the tax rate equally. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain to people why things are the way they are — we’re the board of assessment review, our job is to take all the evidence they have trying to prove the assessor wrong. It’s not always cut and dry.”
Also on the board are Jamie Fine, Jim Gavner, Steve Hubbard and Jennifer Mangione.
According to Orlando, commercial properties on Main and Partition streets all increased by an average of 10 percent in value. William Clark, who owns the 253 Main St. building that houses the Dutch Ale House, saw a 26.5 percent increase in the assessed value of his property. According to Orlando, this spike was caused by the recent sale of the property for over 25 percent more than its initial value, which “triggered [him] to look at it again and run some numbers.”
“I made a spreadsheet of every tax lot on Partition Street and Main Street,” said Clark of the literature he had brought to the grieving session. “I broke it down by land and building and broke it down by the average assessment. I think I have a pretty good case. I think that once in awhile people make mistakes — assessing value for tax purposes is an incredibly difficult job.”
“I can’t sell my house for this month,” said a first-time homeowner who asked not to be named. “I just bought it two and a half years ago and it’s gone up substantially since I bought it — it’s a lot. I didn’t [grieve] last year because I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m not sure if I do now.”
If those who grieved are unhappy with the mailed response they receive about their property values, they have further recourse. Residential property owners can file for an assessment review in small claims court, while owners of commercial properties can file an Article 7 to bring about a tax assessment review proceeding.
Orlando says that the property assessment process for 2019 will begin this November.