The assessor is responsible for discovering, listing, and valuing all real property according to the laws of the State of New York. Real property is defined as land and all things attached to the land.
The assessor is responsible to the individual property owner to ensure that the value is proper so that the owner pays no more than their fair share of property tax. The assessor is further responsible to all the people to ensure that no property escapes the assessment process or is under-assessed and that no property owner receives preferential treatment.
The assessor does not establish tax rates or decide how much tax is to be paid. The assessor's duty is to establish as accurately, appropriately and equitably as possible, the market value of your property.
Assessed Values vs. Tax Rates
The following article is reprinted with the permission of the International Association of Assessing Officers.
Pretend for a moment that the assessor’s estimation of the value of your property is the highest price you would be allowed to accept if you sold. If that were so, you would be much more concerned about the accuracy of the valuation than the effect on your tax bill.
If you can keep pretending, you will have the right framework for your discussion with the assessor. You will both be clearly focused on determining if the value of your property has been accurately estimated. You will be able to think about the problem more clearly and understand if and how the assessor's office is at fault.
You may still be angry about the size of your tax bill. To mount an effective protest against high property taxes, you need to concentrate your efforts on the town council, school board or whoever creates budgets and sets tax rates. These officials determine how much money the property tax has to raise each year.
The tax rate is the relationship between the amount of taxes to be raised and the tax base. The tax rate is calculated by dividing the tax base (the total assessed value of all taxable property in the jurisdiction) into the amount of tax that must be raised. For example, if the total assessed value is $100 million, and the amount of tax to be raised is $1 million, the tax rate is 1 percent. If the total assessed value doubles, and the amount of tax to be raised stays at $1 million, the tax drops to .5 percent. In this case, if your property has increased in value; your tax may remain the same. However, if assessed value doubles to $200 million and the tax rate stays at 1 percent, the amount to be collected in taxes doubles $2 million. In this case, if your property has increased in value, you will probably pay more tax.
If officials claim they are not raising taxes because the tax rate remains the same, the taxpayer should be wary. The question to ask officials is how much total assessed value has changed. If the total assessed value has risen, then a tax increase has been ”enacted” even though the tax rate remains the same.
The next question to ask is whether increased cost of services justifies increased taxes. You may decide that you are willing to pay more taxes for an improved school system or better police or fire protection. These are complex questions that must be addressed to the appropriate officials-not to the assessor.
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Mark A. Minoia