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Sep 19, 2011 12:18 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Considers Cyclical Reassessments Instead Of Annual Process

Sep 21, 2011 11:16 AM

The Southampton Town Board on Friday held a second discussion to consider whether it should reassess properties annually, as it has done for the past decade, or conduct a full reassessment every three years.

A steep decline in state aid sparked the conversation. New York State has typically doled out approximately $200,000 per year to Southampton Town to help aid the town in the laborious process, by which the town’s assessors are charged with documenting individual changes in the value of thousands of properties. But those funds will no longer be available.

“In the current state budget, that state aid has been all but flat,” said Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

Although no decision has been made on whether to continue the annual reassessments or follow a cyclical schedule, the Town Board held a lengthy discussion with John Wolham, the regional director for the state’s Office of Real Property Services, at a work session on Friday, asking for details on what would happen if the town made the switch. Ms. Throne-Holst noted that the town is concerned about the implications of either option for the town assessor’s office.

Ms. Throne-Holst said she was concerned that a “seesaw” effect would be felt among town residents in their tax bills under a cyclical schedule, because of the changing, and sometimes volatile, nature of real estate values. She said that in 2002, when the town first undertook an annual assessment after going 10 years without reassessing, some residents were particularly unhappy with the results. The initial years of the process were met with much disapproval—homeowners argued that it created broad disparities in appraisals among neighborhoods and enormous hikes in assessments on a year-to-year basis.

Ms. Throne-Holst said that the biggest concern is in areas where school districts straddle multiple townships with different assessment schedules—namely Flanders, Riverside and Northampton, which are in the Riverhead School District, the majority of which is in Riverhead Town. Members of the community late last year were up in arms after being dealt a large spike in Riverhead school taxes. Residents have complained that because Southampton Town assesses annually, and Riverhead Town has not conducted a full reassessment in years, it leaves them bearing a larger share of the overall tax burden.

To remedy that effect, Mr. Wolham said that under a cyclical schedule the town could partially assess certain groups of properties or neighborhoods in the years between full assessments, with a methodology that is “less fine” and “less resource intensive” than a full reappraisal.

Maureen Berglin, a deputy town assessor, expressed her desire to continue to keep a comprehensive tab on the town’s property values.

“What we’ve done is, we’ve been building a foundation since 2006,” she said. “I certainly wouldn’t want to lose that.”

SEA-TV Wants A New Home

Proponents of SEA-TV, Southampton Town’s education and government television channel, have pitched a plan to build a new $1 million studio for the station.

Members of the Education and Governmental Access Channel Committee gave a presentation of the proposal to the Town Board at Friday’s work session and said they’ve identified a 3.2-acre town-owned parcel on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton on which to build the new center, which would serve as the new home for the channel. SEA-TV, which is broadcast on Cablevision Channel 22, telecasts educational and governmental meetings. Currently, the channel leases space in Bridgehampton.

“We need a permanent home if we are to truly pursue the mission of the channel,” committee member Dr. Josephine DeVincenzi said at the work session

The committee is asking the Town Board to borrow just more than $1 million in 2012 to construct the studio. In the presentation, they explained that they expect to pay back the debt service costs with anticipated future revenues. Those revenues would stem primarily from future Cablevision franchise fees and sponsorship monies. The channel is soliciting sponsors to fund programming, similar to the way the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) does, explained SEA-TV Executive Director Bruce Nalepinksi.

“We’re only spending what we conservatively think and know we’re going to come up with in revenues,” he said.

Town Board members did not offer much feedback on the plan. Mr. Nalepinksi stressed that the building would have elements that make it energy efficient. That includes insulated panels that would provide superior insulation, which is considered the “single most important factor in making a building green,” said architect Paul Rogers, of the firm Chaleff and Rogers Architects.

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My vote is for every 3 years. Subjecting the taxpayers to this punitive process every year will not improve how its received. It will reduce municipal overhead and save trees. Like everyone else, when you make less money, ie state aid is lower, you make do...you shouldn't come after us for the difference.
By kaluss45 (44), southampton on Sep 20, 11 6:25 AM
With the home values dropping substantial almost on an annual basis why should the homeowner contniue to pay taxes on a higher value for three years? And, by the way, when can we expect a lower tax bill now that our homes are valued at least a third less than last year?
By Tennyson (77), Quogue on Sep 20, 11 9:12 AM
Are you aware of any assessments that have ever reflected a decrease in value and thus a decrease in taxes?
By kaluss45 (44), southampton on Sep 20, 11 10:26 AM
Unfortunately NO. But wouldn't it be nice surprise if it did happen. Our governmental leaders don't know the meaning of spending less. They want every last cent from our lint filled pockets.
By Tennyson (77), Quogue on Sep 20, 11 10:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
It actually happened this tax year that a decrease in assessment resulted in lower taxes. East Quogue areas as well as some areas of Southampton and North Sea are examples of it.
By Theresa Kiernan (26), Southampton on Sep 20, 11 2:24 PM
The problem with this is that there are many properties that are under assessed. Typically these are large homes owned by very rich people (go figure). I can point for example to a number of very large waterfront properties in the Tuckahoe community that are assessed for $ 3 million less than what they were sold for. Yet around the corner from them are more normal sized houses that are assessed for close to fair market. That's not fair.
By tuckahoeptomember (9), Southampton on Sep 20, 11 8:33 PM