Portland discusses equalization rates

PORTLAND – The equalization rate continues to be the topic of discussion in Portland.

The Portland Town Board has not made any changes on the equalization rate but the town board held a workshop to discuss equalization rates with town assessor DeaAnna Wheeler recently.

According to Wheeler, New York state came back with an equalization rate for the town at 54.7 percent, while the town’s current rate is 54 percent. She said it was “good news” the rate did not decrease further. While the state has given its equalization rate, the state gives the town a 5 percent window to either raise or lower the rate; increasing 5 percent would bring the town’s equalization rate to over 57 percent.

“I think you are safe to stay where you are for another year. If it continues to show that trend of higher numbers then I think next year will be the time to change it when we have good data,” Wheeler said.

Resident Bill Ploetz asked Wheeler what the harm is in raising the rate 5 percent and saving taxpayers money this year. The equalization rate does not affect the town taxes but does have an impact on other taxes, including county and school taxes.

“If we made smaller changes to the equalization rate, the perception to people is that their taxes would change less from year to year. Wouldn’t you rather have money in your pocket now than paying more spread out over several years? I don’t see how it’s saving us any money,” Ploetz said.

In 2011, the town’s rate was set at over 58 percent and dropped down to 52 percent in 2012. Wheeler said it’s her job to be fair as an assessing unit.

“The assessor’s job is fairness, not taxes. In my opinion, fairness is to stay where we’re at for one more year. That’s the most fair,” she said. “(The equalization rate) it goes up and down. I think we’re safe with that cushion because we’re right in between of where we should be.”

Resident Mark Rand said if the town were to go with the higher equalization rate, the money saved would not have to be paid back. He also said Wheeler should deal with the equalization rate next year when the time comes. “It’s not like if we choose the higher percentage now and come next year it goes down, it’s not like as though we have to give back the money in this year we saved. If it goes down, we’ll deal with that then. Next year, in my mind, has nothing to do with it,” Rand said.

Supervisor Daniel Schrantz was leery to raise up the rate this year, citing the state could punish the town next year. Wheeler also said if the rate were to increase to 57 percent, she would have to redo assessments based on the new rate.

“Say we raise it again up to 57 percent, the way the state can maneuver things around, you think they’re going to stick it to (the town) by dropping it back down next year,” Schrantz said.

The town board and Wheeler did not come to any decision on the equalization rate. Wheeler has a meeting scheduled with representatives from New York state next week to discuss the equalization rate and answer any of the town’s questions. Following that meeting, the town board and Wheeler will meet again to discuss the rate. That date for the meeting has not been set.

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