Towns question equalization rates

NORWICH – Three representatives from the New York State Office of Real Property Services were repeatedly questioned about Chenango County’s dropping equalization rates during a Nov. 13 presentation before the Chenango County Board of Supervisors.

They were invited to explain where rates come from and to educate town supervisors about the roles played by their local assessors in determining them. Several town assessors were also invited and attended.

The Office of Real Property Services (ORPS) sets equalization rates across the state by measuring the relationship of locally assessed values to the region’s real estate market. The assessed value divided by the market value equals the equalization rate.

The rate, which is certified every year, is what’s used to calculate school and property taxes. In order to maintain equality amongst taxpayers – and to abide by real property tax law – the state’s office urges towns to keep assessments as uniform as possible.

One third of New York is reassessed in any given year, and half of the state maintains a 100 percent equalization rate. Chenango County’s towns range from 100 percent (New Berlin) to 47 percent (Pitcher). Most towns have dropped over the last five years and are somewhere in the 60s percentile. All but the Town of Norwich (currently at 53 percent) saw there rates drop from 2006.

Through their questions, a handful of town officials complained that the rising number of real estate sales in Chenango County - the buyers of which have been paying much higher prices than assessments - should be tempered by its under-populated, rural and poor character.

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