Blooming Grove Strategizes for Assessment Savings
By Edie Johnson
After passing a resolution that allows the Blooming Grove tax levy to go over the state tax cap, although it is merely a procedural protection and the town’s own taxes are not expected to shock residents after minor adjustments are made to the preliminary calculations, board members are tackling the question of why the town’s portion of the county tax level is at 9.9% one of the highest in the region. The county tax portion of a residential tax bill is actually a relatively small portion of the entire bill. Still, residents wonder why theirs would be so much higher than most other towns in the county. Town Supervisor, Rob Jeroloman held a lengthy dialogue with former Supervisor Nancy Calhoun about how the county tax levy is determined, why the current rate may be abnormal, and what can be done about it. Many residents lack understanding of the complex process and may be confused after hearing the county’s budget report which stated that the county tax does not exceed the tax cap. This however is an average and varies significantly from town to town. Jeroloman said he has been in county-wide shared services meetings with officials from Monroe and Woodbury which pay a nearly equally high rate.
The town’s tax rate is determined by average home appraisal values in a municipality, adjusted by an Equalization Rate, which is currently 17.15%.
The problem, as some see it, is that homes in the Village of South Blooming Grove have been selling at much higher than normal market values (past average range was $180,000 – $400,000). The Market Rate (what it will sell for on the real estate market) on a home can vary significantly from its professionally assessed value. Other factors (like value of adjacent homes, and in Blooming Grove’s instance several new developments with a dozen or so homes in the $400,000 – $600,000 range) can skew the results. Calhoun feels, and it was considered by the town’s previous administration, that it would help to get assistance from county assessors as well as 2 of their own assessors for a full reassessment of all homes thus determining “100% values”. When previously discussed almost 2 years ago there was hesitancy because of the potential cost, which some said could go as high as a half million to a million dollars, taking a big bite out of potential savings. Jeroloman said that in addition to help from the county the cost could be lowered by some grants that are now available for shared services projects such as this would be, and that it would at least be worth continuing to meet with the other towns similarly affected to get a better determination whether there would be real and significant savings.
At a previous discussion with the former Town Assessor, Legislator Katie Bonelli and Real Properties Director John McCarey, it was said that a new format of assessing by neighborhoods was recommended to Albany to allow assessment that could result in a more fair playing field.
Public Hearing for Town Budget
The public hearing for presentation of town budget to the public was set for October 30, 7pm.
The town hall’s skylight which was damaged beyond repair by the heavy recent rains, along with its age (its life expectancy was estimated at 15 years and having been installed in 1990 it has reached 28 years). Cost is estimated at $6,026.
New Vehicle for Police Department
The town’s police department has requested a new vehicle, and says it has sufficient money for the purchase in their budget. The vehicle they want to purchase is a 2019 Utility Intercept Explorer. It would replace an older vehicle (Tahoe) that is no longer acceptable for the challenges of police work, but it will be able to be utilized by another department, possibly the Building Department. A transfer of funds from the Building Department to the Police Department will help offset the funds of the new vehicle.
Recreation Department Advisory Committee
The town is considering forming an advisory committee to consider ideas and pros and cons in the Recreation Department. It would consist of a variety of members of about 5-7 members and would report to the town board.
Councilperson Sonia Ayala suggested that the board determine a set of goals and objectives. Councilman Tom DeVinko suggested that the people running different programs could be invited to the meetings and provide monthly reports. Residents who have participated in summer camp and other particular programs could contribute information about what they liked and did not like.