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Potsdam files final assessment roll

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POTSDAM — The town’s final assessment roll has been filed, and the courts are the only resort left for disgruntled property owners.

After a controversial townwide reassessment, the total taxable value of all Potsdam properties is just under $528.8 million. This is an 11.5 percent increase from last year.

It also is $10.7 million less than the tentative assessment roll filed in April.

Since April, property owners have had numerous chances to have their assessments reduced. First, they were able to schedule informal meetings with assessor James P. Snyder. During those meetings, Mr. Snyder was able to change an assessment if he felt that he had made a mistake.

Once the period for informal meetings passed, taxpayers had another chance to convince Mr. Snyder to alter their assessment. During this time, they could sign a stipulated agreement that fixed their assessment and made it illegal for them to grieve it or take it to court.

According to Mr. Snyder, 210 stipulated agreements were signed this year.

Finally, property owners who still were not satisfied presented their cases to the town’s Board of Assessment Review in May. The board looked at 292 grievance claims and made its final decisions last week.

“We had many, many more this time than we ever had,” said Chairman K. William Grant.

Not everybody saw the reduction they were hoping for, Mr. Grant said, partly because people gave the board too little information.

“This is the worst that people have been to give us proper information,” he said.

When presenting to the board, the burden is on the property owner to prove that their assessment is in error. Usually, this requires a recent appraisal of property value, along with comparisons to similar properties in the same community.

This year, people presented appraisals from as early as 2005, and comparisons with properties in other communities. Such information, Mr. Grant said, cannot be effectively used to launch a grievance claim.

The reassessment has drawn criticism from hundreds of town residents who fear that higher assessed property values will lead to higher taxes.

Higher assessments do not automatically mean higher taxes. If everyone’s assessment goes up, the burden will be spread evenly among all, assuming town, county and school budgets remain similar.

However, if someone’s property value goes up by more than that of similar properties, they will end up footing more of the bill.

More than 320 taxpayers signed a petition to have the assessment rolled back to last year’s figures, but such petitions have no legal standing.

Those who want to take their assessment to court will have to file a claim by July 31.

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