Tuesday, December 11, 2018
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Mayor Dan Hall defends process & assessor faulted in letter

By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor

Mayor Dan Hall, contacted about a letter to the editor published in last week’s Chronicle criticizing the Assessor’s Office, said Glens Falls follows New York State Real Property law when re-assessing.

“When there is a change in ownership or when a building permit is issued, that triggers the assessor to look at the property,” the Mayor said.

He disputed contentions made by the property owner Bert Hoenigmann in the letter we published.

“His comment that the City Assessor told him that she has the power to re-assess any home at any time for any reason is not true. And [former assessor] Tina Dimitriadis told me she never said that,” the mayor said.

“I think it was taken out of context. She probably said she can look at a property when something triggers it like a transfer or a building permit. But Tina was upset he said that. She is adamant that she never said that.”

Hoenigmann & Whann dispute him

But Mr. Hoenigmann insists that Ms. Dimitriadis made the comments in front of the hearing officer when he appealed his assessment.

“I was there with my real estate agent, Patti Gray Whann, and I’ll be honest, things got a little heated, but at one point she did say, ‘I have the power to change an assessment at any time for any reason.’”

Ms. Gray Whann, owner of Glens Falls Area Realty, says Ms. Dimitriadis “absolutely said that. I was there at the hearing. She said she had the power to drive around the city and if she saw a house that looked like it was fixed up, she could reassess it. She absolutely said that.”

City assessor left the job on Nov. 1

The mayor said Ms. Dimitriadis left the Assessor post on Nov. 1 for another job.

He noted, “We are looking at what to do with the assessor’s position” now that Ms. Dimitriadis has left. Susan [McEnaney] is in training to become an assessor, and we are thinking about what we might do in that office.”

Contacted for comment, Ms. Dimitriadis would only say, “We do what every assessor’s office does according to New York State Real Property processes.”

Mayor Hall said, “I felt the letter was misleading. We have gotten no other complaints and I am comfortable with the process. I feel it’s fair, and if a resident wants to grieve their assessment, we have the Board of Assessment Review to take a look at things.”

City details the particulars

Mayor Hall and Assessment Clerk Susan McEnaney spoke in detail about Mr. Hoenigmann’s property.

They said he bought the home in July 2008 for $219,000. The property was assessed for $97,100 and had a full-market value of $124,000, say City records.

In 2014, Mrs. McEnaney said ownership was transferred to a trust, which triggered an inspection by the assessor who noted a new wrought-iron fence and raised the assessed value by $16,900, from $97,100 to $114,000. The full-market value increased from $124,000 to $142,500.

Contacted for comment, Mr. Hoenigmann said that information is correct.

In 2017, Mr. Hoenigmann applied for a permit to “build roof system over open deck,” according to City records.

However, the City says he did more than build a roof system. “He enclosed and wrapped the porch and deck from the back to the side,” Mrs. McEnaney said.

Mr. Hoenigmann said, “Before the work was done, I had a back porch and nothing was screened in. Half of the porch had a roof, and half did not, so I put a roof over the part that did not already have one, and decided to screen in the entire back porch.”

Mrs. McEnaney said Buildings and Codes inspected the work and filed a report.

“When the work is completed,” said Mrs. McEnaney, “we go out and take photos, which Tina did in the spring of 2018. She valued the property and raised the assessed value to $175,000.

“He asked for $150,000 and went in front of the Board of Assessment Review, which denied his appeal. He then went to Small Claims Court, and a hearing officer lowered it to $160,000.”

Mrs. McEnaney said in 2017, when the property was assessed at $114,000 with a combined tax rate of $41.71 per thousand, his taxes were $4,755. That total was reduced $1,091, to $3,664, by the Enhanced STAR program, she said.

His taxes jumped 58.9% in one year

In 2018, with the new assessment of $160,000 and a combined tax rate of $43.34 per thousand, total taxes are $6,934, reduced $1,113 by the Enhanced STAR program, leaving a final tax bill of $5,821. That’s an increase of $2,157, a 58.9% hike from the previous year.

Mr. Hoenigmann’s letter argues that Glens Falls penalizes home owners for making improvements.

He asked: “So, what happens the next time I, as a responsible home owner, want to do more improvement to my home?

“The way I see it, I have three choices:

“1) Have the work done illegally (i.e. – no permit)

“2) Get a permit which will effectively put another bullseye on my back for the City to increase my taxes again, or

“3) Don’t do any more improvements and let my house deteriorate instead (as many homes in Glens Falls have).

“Actually, there’s a fourth choice, which is the route I have chosen to take.

“Choice #4 is to sell the house and leave Glens Falls for somewhere with a fair assessment policy.

“But that has it’s own drawbacks, since I now need to price my home much lower than its real value in order to make it ‘sellable.’

“You see, much of the feedback I’ve been getting is ‘Nice home, but the taxes are too high’ even at that lowered price.”

Calls for citywide reassessment

Mr. Hoenigmann concluded, “The time for a city-wide tax re-asssessment, which spreads the tax burden fairly among all homeowners via incremental increases, is long overdue. Otherwise, if you’re a homeowner in Glens Falls, don’t think that your tax bill can’t go up drastically because of the ‘tax cap.’ Because it can.”

Should Glens Falls do full re-valuation?

Should Glens Falls do a full re-valuation to adjust assessments citywide?

“It’s come up,” Mayor Dan Hall said when we asked. “We have talked about it. It’s an expensive proposition.” He said it is “something I will look at.”

The last reval, done in 2004-05 in coordination with the Town of Queensbury, cost the City $120,000, according to City Clerk Bob Curtis.

Is a reval needed? “That depends on who you ask,” Mayor Hall responded.

Do you think it’s needed, we asked?

“Probably,” he said.

Mr. Curtis said the city’s cost for the last reval was about $20.59 per parcel.

There are 5,886 individual parcels in the City of Glens Falls, according to Assessment Clerk Susan McEnaney.

At $20.59 a parcel, a Citywide reval would cost $121,193 using the cost per parcel that was used 13 years ago.

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