WGXC-90.7 FM

Athens inches towards a tax reval

Dec 10, 2010 10:43 am
In a sure-fire sign of changing demographics, and an acceptance that their community has shifted to newer residents in recent years, the Athens Town Council agreed to move ahead with putting a townwide tax revaluation out to bid byy a 3-2 this past Monday. Reflecting the close nature of their decision, however, they tabled a resolution stating the town’s intent to conduct a revaluation.

Revaluations – which can cost a projected $100,000 or so – reassess all of a municipality’s properties, both commercial and residential. While it doesn’t increase the overall taxes that are collected, it is designed to ensure each property is assessed properly, and makes sure each property owner pays their fair share of taxes. The idea is to equalize the rates of payment between longterm proerty owners and newcomers, many of whom claim what has long been termed an unofficial "welcome stranger" system of higher taxation for newer arrivals into our Upstate communities.

Palmateer, a Democrat, and Deputy Town Supervisor Gene Hatton and Councilman Robert Butler, both Republicans, voted in favor of getting bids, while Dinkelacker, a Democrat, and Councilwoman April Paluch, a Republican, voted against the bid. All decided to table the full reval commitment.

During a public information session at E.J. Arthur Elementary School earlier this fall, the proposal attracted a substantial amount of controversy.

At Monday night’s Town Council meeting, officials initially discussed a resolution put on the table by Town Assessor Laura Chase. That resolution stated the town’s intent to conduct a revaluation, but did not commit it to any particular vendor or pricetag. Chase said the resolution is a standard procedure for any town considering a revaluation, and is required by the New York State Office of Real Property Services (ORPS). The resolution she submitted for the board’s consideration was taken from a template provided by the state.

But town officials were reticent. They were concerned the resolution represented a commitment by the town to do the revaluation, without having any idea how much it will cost.

Chase said ORPS requires the resolution before the town can even put the project out to bid. Moreover, she added, vendors require it before they will submit bids.

“Other towns tell me vendors won’t even want to spend the time on the RFP (Request for Proposal) and coming up with a bid because they want to know the town is really planning on doing the re-val,” Chase said. “There is no penalty for scrapping it if you decide not to do it.”

Officials, though, remained unconvinced.

“I think it sends out the wrong message,” Town Councilwoman Phyllis Dinkelacker said. “It’s like we are committing to doing the project before we know how much it will cost. People are upset enough with this. I feel very uncomfortable with this resolution.”

Town Supervisor Lee Allen Palmateer said, “I think the board needs to spend a little more time reviewing this. I can’t believe any vendor serious about taking on this job would not move ahead without this resolution.”

Officials decided to table the resolution pending further discussion.

However, by a 3-2 vote they passed another motion putting the revaluation out to bid. While it is unclear whether the town can do that – they will first have to see if the state mandates the other resolution be adopted first – they want to find out what the project’s cost will be.

Palmateer, Deputy Town Supervisor Gene Hatton and Councilman Robert Butler voted in favor of getting bids, while Dinkelacker, a Democrat, and Councilwoman April Paluch, a Republican, voted against it.

“This would at least get the ball rolling so we can see what kind of realistic figure we can get,” Hatton said. “The RFP would not obligate us to accepting anything.”

The Town Council has still not made a decision whether the revaluation will actually be done. The motion only authorizes the town to find out how much vendors would charge for the job.