Glens Falls reval a shock to some

By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor

Glens Falls hadn’t done a general reassessment of property values since 2005.

Last week, owners were notified of new preliminary assessments calculated by KLW Appraisal Group of Buffalo.

It’s caused some shock waves.

“I have heard from many constituents,” Diana Palmer, Ward 3’s council member, said in response to a Chronicle inquiry.

“Initially, there were a lot of questions, some anger, some confusion, and a lot of anxiety. Some of my constituents have felt better after understanding it better and some are still upset.”

Mayor Collins says that in broad terms, “For about a quarter of the people, their taxes have gone up almost or over 25%… And then, I think it was about 20%, about 800 people’s taxes, ended up going down [in the vicinity of] 25%. And then the majority were between the two.”

Mayor Collins said, “We didn’t want to spend the money to do reassessment. We couldn’t put it off any longer. We knew that there were people that were underpaying and we knew that there were people that were overpaying” — sometimes based on 17-year-old assessments.

“This needed to be done for the health of our community, to make sure that everybody has a fair shake,” the mayor said.

Councilwoman Palmer agrees. “This is about equitably distributing the tax burden across the City because some people’s homes have not appreciated at the same rate as others’ and they are paying more than their share while others are underassessed and are paying less than their share….It would not have been responsible for our Council to kick this further down the road even though it can be unpopular.”

Councilman-at-Large Jim Clark said, “From my standpoint, from government’s standpoint, we need to — now that we’re at 100% valuation — stay as close to that as possible. And that in five or six years, we should be doing a reval. And make sure we’re current and constant. So we aren’t ever at 75% valuation again.”

The mayor somewhat sheepishly acknowledged that the impact of the new assessment is that his taxes will decrease. “Really I wish it went up a little.”

Meanwhile, he said, “There’s one neighbor of mine, she had been paying for the last 15 years on a value of $90,000. And the house is now worth over $190,000. We’re not going back and saying for the last 15 years, you haven’t paid your fair share of taxes, but I’m sure that’s going to be a shock and horror and we all agree that the taxes are too high in Glens Falls. I’ve never heard anybody ever say their taxes were too low.”

And Glens Falls is hard-pressed as always for tax revenue. “We’re stuck in the only city in Warren County. We have a paid police force and a paid fire department and I believe in my interactions with people when I was running for office, nobody wanted to do without those things. Everybody appreciated them.

“We also have all the services of Warren County in Glens Falls. You live in Queensbury and you get sick, you go to the Glens Falls Hospital that is a tax-exempt organization. You look at the number of organizations and services that are in Warren County, and a vast, vast majority of them” are in the city….

“I can tell you that in my eight years on the council, that there’s no waste in our government. We’ve cut payroll, we’ve cut positions. Jack Diamond 12 years ago started cutting. We cut 40% of our DPW. There was a four man Community Development Office.

“So what I need to do is make sure that we continue to run as lean and effective and efficient as possible. Never spend a dollar that isn’t absolutely necessary and for good cause. Then I’ve done what I can.

“In the last 10 years the City of Glens Falls’ taxes have raised just over the rate of inflation. That’s pretty impressive. We don’t have lakefront property. We don’t have the Million Dollar Mile. We don’t have two Walmarts, right. We don’t have that tax base and I don’t have a solution for that.”

GF tax reval brings hefty tax hike for Council members Jim Clark, Diana Palmer

Chronicle editor Mark Frost writes:

Mayor Bill Collins figured he and other elected officials would be under the microscope when Glens Falls’s new property assessments were issued.

“So in my house,” he told The Chronicle Saturday, “they said it was valued at $133,000 [previously]. And I re-mortgaged over the years. And so I kind of thought that [assessment] was a little low.

“Now, they say my home is worth, I think, about $170,000. And I still think I could sell it for more. My taxes went down $1,400. And I’m like, I really wish it went up a little so at least I was sharing in the pain.

“I know that several council members, I looked at every council member just because I knew that we’d be under fire, that people will be screaming at us. And several council members went up, some of them more than mine. I think Councilwoman Palmer was one of them. I think Councilman Clark’s taxes went up significantly too.”

Will Councilman-at-Large Jim Clark fight the new assessment? “Well,” he told The Chronicle. “I scheduled an appointment” just like he advised other people to do with questions or concerns. “I just want to go through the process. I want to see how they got the particular value on my property.”

Does he expect to challenge the new assessment. “That’s a question, I have to talk with my wife, but I think the value on my property that they’ve given me is fair. And I knew it was going to go [up]. You’d have to be living under a rock if you didn’t think your property value was going up. Our properties are worth more. And for that I figured I was going to be paying more taxes. It’s just a matter of how much more and what my new value of my home is.”

Nor was Ward 3 councilwoman Diana Palmer surprised at her big jump in assessment.

“I knew our home would increase because it needed a lot of work when we bought it and we have been chipping away at improving it over the years. It was still a bit of a shock to see the increase, but I also want to pay my fair share. I do not believe that my husband and I will be contesting our assessment.”

On questioning your GF property assessment

Glens Falls property owners can raise questions, concerns, objections about the new preliminary assessments:

• Now through April 1: People can meet at City Hall with people from KLW Appraisal Group that did the reassessment. They’ll explain their process, and property owners can bring evidence of why they think the valuation is erroneous. Phone 518-396-5200 to make an appointment.

• May 1 is tentative roll date when “the tentative assessment roll is filed with the county,” said KLW’s Robert Koszarek.”

• May 24 is Grievance Day (fourth Tuesday in May), when property owners can formally seek reduction in their assessment by the City’s Board of Assessment Review.

Appraisal firm: No assessment impact from recent boom

Robert Koszarek is one of the founders of KLW Appraisal Group, the 27-year-old, Buffalo-based firm that Glens Falls hired for $305,000 to do the new citywide assessment.

This week he and his associates are meeting with people who make appointments to ask about the process, seek information, make a case for why the preliminary assessment is wrong.

(Call 518-396-5200 to schedule an appointment.)

Monday morning, some 50 property owners came. “Probably one of the biggest things that I’ve heard so far this morning,” Mr. Koszarek told The Chronicle, “is ‘why is the city doing this right now? That’s really bad timing’.”

In Mr. Koszarek’s view there is no good or bad time, that property values are always changing, and that no one time is better or worse to make an accurate assessment. “Our values are based on July 1 of 2020,” he noted.

“What’s more important is that once it’s done is that it is maintained, because market conditions change all the time,” and the assessments should adjust over time.

GF total val: $1.3-billion

The total value of property in Glens Falls jumped from $888-million to $1.3-billion in the new citywide assessment, Mayor Bill Collins told The Chronicle.

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