By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — All 18 towns in Essex County have avoided getting penalized with state equalization rates by being at full-value assessments.
County Real Property Tax Service Director Charli Lewis said the State Office of Real Property Services has deemed properties in all towns in the county are assessed at 100 percent of market value.
Lewis recently told the County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee that assessors in the towns should be commended.
“I believe it’s three years in a row every town achieved 100 percent. It’s a lot of good, hard work by the assessors.”
If the state sets an equalization rate for a town, all properties in that town increase in value the percentage of that equalization rate, so taxing entities collect more in taxes.
The State Office of Real Property Services has a program that most towns have enrolled in that pays municipalities a fee per parcel for keeping assessments updated.
One facet of that program, however, recently required the County Real Property Tax Service to send commercial-property owners an income survey that some supervisors criticized as an unnecessary personal intrusion.
The survey asked for the income from their businesses, said Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield), and should have been labeled as voluntary only.
“A lot of people threw it in the trash as rubbish,” Morrow said. “As far as I’m concerned, it is rubbish.”
It was a state mandate for the State Reassessment Aid Program, Lewis said, and if she refused, the state could dock their aid.
“They are not required to send them (surveys) back,” Lewis said.
“Are they going to do assessments up or down with this?” Morrow asked.
Assessments could go in either direction once they process the information, Lewis said. She said only 246 surveys were returned so far out of about 1,400 mailed.
“It’s perfectly valid to value income in business assessments,” Lewis said. “We’re going to take all this information and evaluate it.”
Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said there could be two equal businesses, and because one is thriving, that one might be assessed higher if it participated in the income survey.
Although the survey went to all commercial properties, only a few businesses are assessed based on income generated, Supervisor Roby Politi (R-North Elba) said.
“Convenience stores are not valued by the income approach. The primary thing you value by income are hotels and motels, a marina, a housing complex.”
It was not Lewis’s idea to use the income survey, Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) affirmed.
“She’s under a mandate to send it to all businesses. I don’t want everybody to think Charli is the big bad wolf here.”
He said all but one town in the county — Chesterfield — is in the State Reassessment Aid Program.
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