A few brave towns in Onondaga County raised assessments to keep up with market

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Mark 2023 as the year only a few brave town assessors in Onondaga County changed property values to match market rates.

This is the time of year when town assessors reveal the tentative assessed values they have assigned to each property. In an effort to avoid a property tax increase, homeowners line up in town halls to argue that their properties are not worth as much as the town assessor says.

As home prices have soared in recent years, some towns have decided to give residents a break from annual reassessments. Across the county, only 21% of residential assessments increased this year, compared to nearly 50% last year, records show. While towns like Lysander and Van Buren decided to pause, it’s business as usual in the towns of Manlius, DeWitt and Tully.

Lysander, for example, would likely have seen an average 14% increase in residential values this year. Instead, the town raised the value of only 276 of about 8,000 residential properties. Many of those appear to be new construction. The towns of Manlius and DeWitt did not take breaks. The town of DeWitt increased values on nearly every property, records show. The town of Manlius increased values on average by about 13% this year. Assessor Patrick Duffy said home sales are, so far, on track to increase again next year.

Ideally, each property should be assessed every year at 100% of its market value, according to the state tax department. That’s the best way to ensure that owners of different types of property pay their fair share of taxes. Why does Manlius continue to “do it right?” as Duffy says. Towns that drop out of annual reassessments risk inequities within their tax rolls. For example, Duffy said, he increased assessments on apartment buildings this year to reflect an increase in rents. He assigned smaller increases to other residential homes.

The city of Syracuse is a case study in inequity caused by inaction. The city has not done a citywide reassessment of all 32,000 residential properties since 1996. In that time, houses in prosperous neighborhoods have gained value much faster than homes in poor neighborhoods, essentially shifting the tax burden to the poor. Syracuse assessors try to compensate each year by raising assessments in targeted neighborhoods, an uneven process that causes its own problems.

DeWitt Supervisor Ed Michalenko said he supports the town board’s decision to continue adjusting assessments as usual, keeping assessed values equal to market rates. Despite community outrage, he said he would argue to continue it next year. “I know I’m in support of the 100 percent because I think homeowners can look at that and understand it,” he said. If a homeowner does not believe the house would sell for the assessed value, he said, there is a way to challenge it. “I think when you move away from 100%, you mask the problem,” he said.

Staff for DeWitt Assessor Albert Kerr said he is too busy to talk about the situation. Kerr has back-to-back meetings with homeowners who want to fight their assessments. Only three of 19 towns in Onondaga County are likely to have assessed values at 100% of market rates this year, according to the state tax department. In 2020, seven towns had levels of assessment at 100%.

Look up 142,000 assessments

Compare the proposed change in your assessment to other homes and businesses across the county. Syracuse.com pulled records from the Onondaga County Office of Real Property Tax Services into a searchable database.

Source: syracuse.com

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