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Moriah looks to get answers

PORT HENRY Despite complaints property assessments are too high, Moriah residents are now being told assessments are too low. The New York State Office of Real Property Services has determined Moriah is assessed at only 89 percent of full market value. Ive looked at the equalization rate and discussed it with the state, Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. Its difficult to understand. I want them (state officials) to explain this. Scozzafava has invited Todd Anthony, New York State Office of Real Property Services representative, to meet with Moriah residents Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 6 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus hall in Port Henry. Its an information meeting, Scozzafava said. Anyone can come, even people who live outside Moriah. While most taxpayers equate increased property assessments with high taxes, they fail to realize low assessments can also lead to higher taxes, Scozzafava noted. Thats because equalization rates, the figures the state uses to get town assessments up to full value, are applied to exemptions such as STAR, Enhanced STAR and veterans tax breaks. Scozzafava pointed out that Moriah residents with the basic STAR school tax break received an assessment reduction of $34,860 in 2007. This year, because of the 89 percent equalization rate, that same reduction is $31,370. Moriah residents with the Enhanced STAR received an assessment reduction of $66,000 in 2007, Scozzafava said. This year, with the equalization rate applied, that same reduction is $59,400. The reduced tax break means higher taxes paid, the supervisor noted. Its a Catch 22, Scozzafava said. People dont want higher assessments because they fear higher taxes, although thats not necessarily true. But there are consequences if you dont maintain 100 percent (full market value) assessments, too. The state formula for establishing an equalization rate is complicated and includes information on recent home sales, Scozzafava said. That formula may not be fair, he added. Scozzafava noted Moriah is over assessed 114 percent of full value if the state formula is applied using data from within the town. However, the state uses data from throughout the region in its formula, he said, which gives Moriah an 89 percent equalization rate. This is complicated stuff, the supervisor said. Thats why Ive invited a state representative to come here and explain it. If people have questions they should attend.

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