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Assessment Revaluations Not Impacting Pound Ridge Finances

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – Many municipalities across New York State have been suffering from declining assessment rolls due to an increase in the number of property revaluations, but Pound Ridge has managed to weather the storm without a significant impact on its budget process.

While the town has seen a trend in declining assessed values over the past three years, officials say it hasn’t negatively affected town’s finances.

“[The impact] is not very much when you consider what is happening in other towns,” said Carole Long, the town’s assessor. “One reason may be we don’t have the same number of commercial properties as some of these towns. Plus, my values don’t have a lot of discrepancies. They are for the most part very accurate.”

In 2008, the town saw assessed values decrease by $1.1 million, which translated to a 2009 tax revenue loss of $13,567. In 2009, the assessments decreased $1.4 million for a revenue loss of $17,358 in 2010. Last year, assessed value losses jumped to $1.8 million, which means a $22,188 revenue drop this year.

Long said that when assessment rolls drop, the town board has to make up for the revenue.

“It has to be picked up,” she said. “If the town board needs a million dollars, it’s going to get a million dollars. They pass a budget that contains parameters. They’ve already budgeted and they get what they need.”

Finance Director Steve Conti said that last year the town used money from the fund balance to make up lost property tax revenue.

“Last year’s budget called for a 3.4 percent tax increase,” he said. “When we went to do the bills, we saw that that was going to go up because of property revaluations, so we used money from the fund balance to keep it at 3.4 percent.”

Conti agreed with Long that property revaluations haven’t had the impact on Pound Ridge as they have in other towns, but also noted that there has been a lack of growth.

Long said that while new home construction may be down, people are still building additions and making improvements that help negate the problem to a degree.

“People are still applying for permits and putting on additions,” she said. “That makes up for some of the decline.”

Long said she won’t settle out of court with property owners if she feels they haven’t made their case for a lower assessment.

“If the assessment is right, I shouldn’t have to make a deal,” she said. “People don’t have to wait for Grievance Day. They can come to me before that and I’ll adjust it if I’m wrong. My goal is to maintain equity and make sure everyone is assessed at a fair value.”

Long said that sometimes the agents who work on behalf of those seeking to lower their assessments don’t do their homework. She recalled a time when a homeowner approached the town about lowering his assessment. But Long felt the assessment was already too low.

"Then we looked at aerial photos and they didn’t match or records – there had been a significant addition to the residence," the assessor said. "So, instead of the hoped-for reduction, the property owner will likely see an increase in his assessment."

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