BROCTON - After receiving several calls from Portland taxpayers about the increases in their school tax bills, Portland Town Supervisor Dan Schrantz announced that he would like the council to enter into discussions along with the town assessor and County Tax Director Jim Caflisch about a potential revaluation.
"Compared with the towns of Stockton and Pomfret, who are also comprised in Brocton's school district, we take the biggest percentage of change out of the equalization rate because we've had the biggest change from last year to this year. That's why it has affected so many on their school tax bills this year," explained Schrantz at the town board meeting.
Revaluation has appeared as an agenda item for the town council in previous months, not just this month in response to people's reactions to jumps in their school tax rate. However, in light of the number of calls the town office has taken from concerned ratepayers, Schrantz reminded the council members that Caflisch is agreeable to discussing the matter with them and town assessor Deanna Wheeler.
Van Buren Point resident Marti Webster attended Wednesday's council meeting on behalf of the Van Buren Point Association to hear an update on the chlorination issue with the water district supplying her water and added "The equalization rate for the town was 62, and has now gone to 54. Out of the 404 parcels in the township, 225 of those are in Van Buren Point. We got hit very hard at 23 percent, which is really awful because we get no help from any municipality when it comes to roadways, street lighting, anything. People there are really up in arms."
Town Attorney, Charles Loveland agreed and shared the taxpayers' frustration.
"It would almost be better if you were to double the tax roll. When I first came here, the equalization rate was at 100 percent."
Schrantz explained how the rate is calculated.
"What it's basically telling you is that property in your township has sold for more than it's assessed at. The assessed value and sale of the properties calculate the equalization rate, which can fluctuate. Properties in our township have been selling at drastically higher values than what they're actually assessed at. A revaluation would mean additional people would have to be hired to go from house to house and assess what the value of the house was. Another part of the problem is also that we have desirable lakefront property in our township, escarpment properties that offer tremendous views to buyers, and then property in the middle. My problem with the equalization rate is that we have spent so much money on water infrastructure in order to spur growth along our lakefront properties, which have yielded some very expensive homes - that when you do a revaluation if everything increases drastically in valuation, are you stopping growth at the same time because of that?"
He went on to say, "With an assessor required to do the additional worker associated with a reval, and potentially having to hire on additional people to work additional hours, do you actually benefit as a town in the process?"
Portland Town Clerk Roxane Sobecki commented Wednesday that she felt for the complaints taxpayers called her with once their tax bills were received and as a homeowner in the township she understands taxpayers' frustrations.
"Our clerk and the rest of the board, we have done the best we can to try and explain the process to people why the percentage of change is so great this tax year. With the drop in the equalization rate, more of the school tax burden shifted to Portland taxpayers than it did for Pomfret or Stockton, townships that are in our school district, but that didn't have a drastic change in their equalization rates."
The council intends to host Caflisch and possibly some leaders from the state level for an informational session this year to lay all of these issues and more questions out on the table "to find out what works best for the Town of Portland," concluded Schrantz.