Home sale prices impact equalization

Being the former clerk, Board of Assessor for the city of Dunkirk, I read the Publisher’s notebook item by John D’Agostino “Equalization pains in Portland” (Aug. 2) and my former colleague, Dea Anna Wheeler, with piqued interest.

Your first topic at hand is the equalization rate. You asked, “How does the equalization rate work?” But instead of explaining how it works, you just gave examples, you didn’t actually explain how it works. I will attempt to explain how the rate works, how it is determined, and what the real problem is with the equalization rate that makes people upset.

Using your own numbers for the town of Pomfret, and assuming they are correct, a house assessed at $30,000 has a market value of $166,000. What this tells me is that the assessed value of $30,000 is only 18.07 percent of the actual market value of $166,000, this 18.07 percent would be the equalization rate. This same rate is used to determine market values for every piece of property in the entire town.

Again using your own numbers and assuming your numbers are correct, in Portland, a property having an assessed value at $65,000 and market value of $120,370 tells me the equalization rate is 54 percent. This number is used to determine market values for every property in Portland.

Now, keep in mind, each of the above numbers is determined by depending on each of the other numbers, so if you change one number in the equation, the end result changes. That’s how an equalization rate works. Easiest way to picture it is by envisioning an old fashioned see-saw …. as the market value goes up, the equalization rate goes down.

The most important aspect contributing to the actual problem is how the equalization rate is determined! This is determined by New York State Office of Real Property Tax Services, every year, based on sample size of the actual arms length sales (willing buyer, willing seller) within that community. These sales determine the market value.

For the Portland example, you state the market value increased by $15,000 from last year. This increase in market value was determined by New York state by averaging out the actual sale prices for the sample they chose within Portland, with those sale prices averaging above the previous years market values for those particular style and neighborhood properties. And yes, property style and property neighborhoods do drive market values – nice neighborhoods bring more money and blighted neighborhoods bring less money.

And that is where the problem arises with equalization rates. When a new rate is determined every year, it is used on every property within the community, all while it was only a small sampling that determined the rate. There is not a different rate for different neighborhoods, its one rate for the entire community.

Right or wrong, thats how an equalization rate works. Over the years it has been noted in this newspaper many times about how property values are not rising in most areas of Chautauqua County, and then when they do increase it creates another problem all together. Darned if we do, darned if we don’t.

Lastly, your attack toward Ms Wheeler in relation to her “part time” work is skewed. You continually label her as “part time” while you continued on to admit she works as an assessor for three different communities (shared services, Mr. D’Agostino?), each chipping in a portion towards her yearly total of $58,000.

Yes, she is part time to each of the three communities – two days at one town, two days at another town, one day at another – but all together for her $58,000 she works a full work week, all sharing the same pension system. So, her yearly total reflects her compensation for a full-time job, not for a “part-time” job as you wished to paint it.

Andy Woloszyn is a Dunkirk resident.