Tax answers expected July 1

(Original publication: May 31, 2001)

The hundreds of Putnam County residents who turned out last week to contest their updated assessments in an effort to lower their property taxes will have to wait another month to see if town officials agree with them.

Kent, Patterson and Southeast held their grievance days on May 23. They allowed property owners to speak and file paperwork supporting claims that their homes were overassessed. According to figures from Putnam's Real Property Tax Service Agency, 60 people showed up at Southeast Town Hall and 40 came to the Patterson Town Hall to question their assessments.

In Kent, though, where residents face the county's highest tax rate at $7.32 per $1,000 of assessed property value, Grievance Day had to be extended to the following day. More than 200 applicants attended the sessions. The line, according to some residents' observations, snaked out of Town Hall onto Route 52, forcing some to stand in the rain.

Janet Guarino, a Kent resident who attended the grievance sessions, called the meetings a "fire hazard, with all the people packed in." She is contesting her assessment, which went from $129,000 for a two-bedroom house in western Kent to $199,800.

"I almost fell over (when I received the notice)," said Guarino, a single mother with two children. "They did everybody, but everybody wasn't done fairly."

The update was the first measure of real estate values since the 1995 countywide revaluation. Preliminary assessment notices based on the Jan. 1 market value were sent out in March for 19,606 parcels in the three towns. Philipstown, Putnam Valley and Carmel decided not to update their assessments.

In Patterson, 205 property owners submitted forms challenging their assessments, as did 365 Southeast owners. The Kent Assessment Review Board received 465 challenges. Residents who filed challenges should receive a letter of determination from their review board by July 1, said George Michaud, the county's real property director, the date tax rolls must be finalized.

Residential property owners upset with the board's decision can seek a Small Claims Assessment Review. Commercial property owners can file a tax certiorari lawsuit in state Supreme Court to try to get their assessments reduced.

Michaud had estimated that grievances were filed on almost 7 percent of the parcels revalued in 1995. In a normal year, he said, from 2 percent to 6 percent of the assessments are challenged. This year, about 5 percent of the updates were challenged.

William Ford, Southeast's assessor, said most inquiries have been residents seeking explanations about their updates. He said the median increase in Southeast's assessed values was 24.9 percent. Taxpayers with an increase less than the median will see their tax bill fall; those with an increase of more than 24.9 percent will see their taxes increase.

Kent officials, said William 'Bil' Tulipane, should have held town meetings to explain what was coming and its impact.

"People want to be reassured they are paying their fair share," said Tulipane, a Democrat who is challenging Republican Supervisor Annmarie Baisley in November's election. His assessment on his Peekskill Hollow Road home, Tulipane said, went up about $30,000.

Christopher Boryk, the Kent and Patterson assessor, didn't return telephone messages yesterday. But Baisley and Patterson Supervisor Michael Griffin said they were both satisfied with their reassessment process. Griffin said 46 percent of Patterson's property owners saw their assessments decrease or stay the same. Baisley said once Boryk, who has been Kent's assessor for two years, is able to smooth out problems left from the 1995 revaluation, assessed values won't fluctuate so widely from update to update.

The assessments will be annually adjusted based on changing market conditions, officials said. The new assessment amounts will be used on Sept. 1 to determine school taxes and on Jan. 1 for town and county taxes.


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005