Hyde Park mulls a reassessment

After a gap of 20 years, the question of a town-wide reassessment has come before Hyde Park officials once again.

At their June 16 meeting, the town board reviewed arguments for and against reassessment and discussed the equalization rate in Hyde Park, which is lower than most surrounding towns, including the others that are in the Hyde Park school district.

A reassessment is done by the town assessor, or a hired contractor, to bring property assessments in line with current real estate market values and ensure that property owners are paying a fair amount of property tax. The longer the time between reassessments, the more likely that some properties are over-assessed and others are under-assessed compared to their market value, according to outside experts.

Hyde Park hasn’t been reassessed since 1994. In cases like that, the state uses an equalization rate to “equalize” the possible difference between a town’s assessment and its market value. In 2013-14, the state assigned Hyde Park an equalization rate of 0.62, which indicates Hyde Park is assessing properties at less than their market value.

By comparison, three of the other towns in the Hyde Park school district–Pleasant Valley, Poughkeepsie, and Rhinebeck–all have an equalization rate of 1.00, meaning that they are assessed at 100 percent market value. The town of Clinton has a rate of 1.01, showing that the state believes its assessment may be slightly above the market.

At the town board meeting, Councilwoman Emily Svenson outlined the impact of a reassessment on the school tax levy percentages paid by the five towns.

In a presentation, she pointed out that with full-value assessments, the towns would split the tax levy this way: Hyde Park, 49.3 percent; Clinton, 17.4 percent; Pleasant Valley, 6.6 percent; Poughkeepsie, 26.3 percent; and Rhinebeck, 0.4 percent.

But with the equalized rate, she said, the portion each pays of the total levy is: Hyde Park, 61.2 percent; Clinton, 13.3 percent; Poughkeepsie, 20.2 percent; Pleasant Valley, 5.1 percent, and Rhinebeck, 0.3 percent.

Svenson claimed that there was a possibility that Hyde Park could capture more value in a reassessment, meaning that the town’s total assessed value and that of individual properties could increase.

Scott Hobson, who serves on Milan’s board of assessors and is also Town of Red Hook assessor, told the Observer earlier this year that, in general, a reassessment usually means “one-third of all parcels increase, one-third decrease, and one-third don’t change at all.”

Town Supervisor Aileen Rohr suggested that if the town did gain value, the impact may not be felt in areas that are outside Hyde Park.

According to Rohr, it would cost the town $474,000 to $1.86 million to reassess, not including the cost of hiring ancillary staff. Rohr also said the Town Assessor Kristen Cables told her that there are incentive programs from the state, but the most she thought they would receive is $40,000.

On the possibility of a reassessment, Rohr said, “There are so many things we’re inundated with, and we’re facing a tax cap, we have situations where we have a lot of infrastructure we would like to address, so it’s this balancing act of figuring out our priorities as a community to see where we want to go, and a lot of that is just financial decisions.”

There is no requirement for towns to reassess at any specific interval. But the state’s program to aid towns in meeting the cost of reassessments requires that reassessments be done every four years.

Over the last 10 years, the town’s equalization rate has fluctuated as the market has dipped into the recession; in fact, 0.62 is a relative high.

Cables gave the Observer the following equalization rates for the last 10 years: 2004, .61; 2005, .55; 2006, .48; 2007-08, .45; 2009, .46; 2010-11, .54; and 2012, .56.

Rohr said the town would continue to look at options and will provide updates at future meetings.

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