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Fulton OKs Plan to End Alleged Conflict in Assessment Reviews

Fulton will no longer allow its Board of Assessment Review to review the assements of board members.

Tuesday, the city approved a deal with the city of Oswego to let each city’s board review assessment appeals from members of the other city’s board. Oswego lawmakers had already approved the agreement.

The State Comptroller’s office, acting on a complaint, found that two members of the Fulton Board of Assessment review had success in getting their assessments reduced that was greater than the average of all taxpayers who received reductions. Board member Holly Carpenter appealed for a reduction on a single property, while board chairman Ron Patrick asked for reductions on 39 properties.

Mayor Ron Woodward said the report did not claim that laws had been broken, but he admitted that it gave the appearance of an improper action. The board members said they did not vote on their own appeals and were not in the room when they were discussed.

The Comptroller’s audit also faulted the board for not keeping written minutes. Woodward said the board kept audio tapes and assumed they were acceptable as minutes.

The Common Council also approved a corrective action plan, required by the Comptroller’s Office.

“This will pretty much satisfy that audit,” said Woodward.

Prior coverage:

State Criticizes Fulton Board of Assessment Review

A report from the state Comptroller’s office finds that two members of the Fulton Board of Assessment Review were more successful in appealing their property assessments than the average citizens who came before the board to argue for reductions.

Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward agreed with the report’s recommendations but added that the report pointed out no wrongdoing.  “They said there was nothing criminal,” he said.

You can read the complete Comptroller’s Office report here (pdf)

The report says that in 2009, the chairman of the Board of Assessment Review and another member of the board filed grievances with the board over the assessments on their properties.

The report did not identify the individuals, but Mayor Ron Woodward said the chairman was Ron Patrick and the member was Holly Carpenter.

Patrick appealed assessments on 39 properties, including his home, a piece of vacant property next door, and 37 residential properties owned with other people, according to the report.  Carpenter appealed the assessment on her home.  According to the report:

  • The two board members disclosed their conflict of interest to the city Assessor, but not to the Mayor.  Disclosure to the chief executive officer is required by law.  Fulton’s mayor is the city’s chief executive officer;
  • There is no written record of whether the two members voted on their own grievances. Woodward says the two members did not vote and were not present when their properties were discussed.  He said the board audio tapes its meetings and considers them to be the minutes of the meeting;
  • The two members won reductions totaling $223,555 with an annual tax savings estimated at $11,411.  Carpenter’s assessment reduction was $15,700 and her tax savings was $801,  All of the rest went to Patrick’s grievances.

The Comptroller’s office said in its report that the Fulton board “members had a high success rate in getting their assessments reduced. In total, there were 171 complaints filed for non-commercial properties in 2009 (40 were filed by the [Board of Assessment Review] members and 131 were filed by other property owners). Although the other property owners received 64 percent of the assessment reductions they requested, we found that the [Board of Assessment Review] Chairman and second [Board of Assessment Review] member collectively received 92 percent.”

The report said that doing business in that manner could lead the public to doubt the fairness of the board’s decisions.  Woodward agreed. “Sometimes, the look of impropriety is just as bad.  It creates mistrust.”

The report indicated the city should have created an agreement with another community’s Board of Assessment Review to review grievances from members of the city board.

Woodward said he has reached out to Oswego Mayor Randy Bateman and the two cities are working out an agreement to hear the assessment grievances of the other city’s board members.

He said the Comptroller’s audit began with a complaint from a citizen, whom he said was not a city taxpayer.  Common Council member Tom Kenyon noted that the person who made the complaint “called me every night for weeks.  He asked me, ‘What are you going to do about it?’  I said, ‘Nothing’.”  He said he tried to explain that the Mayor and Council have no control over the assessment of properties and appeals of assessments and that the Council would take actions after the Comptroller’s investigation indicated what changes to make.

The Comptroller’s office report was “probably not what (the citizen who complained) wanted to hear,” said Woodward. “He probably wanted blood.”

Woodward said Patrick felt like he was being picked on, while Carpenter said she would have preferred to have her assessment challenge heard by another city’s board.

“We have nothing to hide,” Woodward said. “And we don’t want the appearance of impropriety.”

In a letter attached to the report, the city promised to prepare a plan to correct the problems as soon as the Comptroller’s office issues its final report.

Oswego County Will Hold Annual Auction of Tax Properties Oct. 3

MEXICO — The Oswego County Real Property Tax Service will sell up to 79 parcels of tax delinquent properties at the annual tax property auction Saturday, Oct. 3, at Oswego County BOCES, County Route 64, Mexico.

Oswego County takes title to residential and farm properties after the taxes have gone unpaid for approximately four years. Title is taken for vacant land and commercial properties after two years of non-payment of taxes. The auction inventory may include open land, mobile home sites, residential, commercial and waterfront properties.

Former owners were allowed to buy back their properties for the full amount of taxes due until September 4th. Prior owners who did not pay the back taxes are now prohibited from bidding at auction and no longer have legal interest or rights in the tax delinquent parcels they once owned.

David Hastings, Director of Real Property Tax Service, said a complete list of properties with photos and maps of each parcel are listed on the Oswego County Web site at www.oswegocounty.com/rpts or the Sivers Auction Service Web site at www.siversauctionservice.com .

The auction will be divided into two sessions.

Session 1, beginning at 9:30 a.m. will include parcels located in the City of Oswego, the towns of Granby, Hannibal, Minetto, New Haven, Oswego, Palermo, Schroeppel, Scriba, Volney, Hastings, and the village of Central Square.

Session 2, beginning no earlier than 11:30 a.m. will include the parcels located in the towns of Albion, Amboy, Boylston, Constantia, Mexico, Parish, Redfield, Richland, West Monroe, Williamstown, and the villages of Cleveland and Lacona.

Bidder registration starts at 8 a.m. and continues throughout the auction. In order to register, citizens must provide their driver’s license or other acceptable photo ID, and their social security number.

Bidders will receive a description and view a computer presentation that includes a photograph of each parcel as it is offered for sale. Prior owners, their immediate family members, and anyone having delinquent property taxes in Oswego County may not bid at the auction.

More information is available by contacting the Oswego County Real Property Tax Service at 349-8315 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 8315 or www.oswegocounty.com/rpts; or Sivers Auction Service Inc. at 343-3325, www.siversauctionservice.com .

Barclay: Bring Back Property Tax Relief

Assemblyman Will Barclay (R,C,I-Pulaski) said today this fall is the first time in three years that property owners will not receive their STAR Rebate checks. The checks were eliminated in the budget.

“There were several reasons I did not support the 2009-10 budget. Primarily, it increased taxes and fees, did not cut spending and eliminated the STAR Rebate checks for property owners. Residents have taken a double hit with increased taxes and elimination of STAR,” said Barclay.

“We knew the STAR rebate checks were not a permanent solution to high property tax rates, however, they did provide some relief to those who needed it most. It’s unfortunate for all that Albany leaders saw fit to pass a budget, negotiated behind closed doors, that did not include the rebates, especially in this economic climate,” said Barclay.

The Middle Class STAR Rebate Program provided middle class homeowners with incomes under $250,000 about $1.3 billion in rebates for 2007-8 and $1.8 billion in 2008-09. Over the past 10 years, state spending has increased by $52 billion or 65 percent.

“We need to create a more equitable property tax structure. STAR at least helped many receive a break. I am urging my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate to work together to not only close this year’s budget gaps of $2.1 billion but to come together for some real solutions to high property taxes,” said Barclay.

Oswego County Will Auction Tax Properties Sept. 27

Submitted article

The Oswego County Real Property Tax Service will sell up to 72 parcels of tax delinquent properties at the annual tax property auction Saturday, Sept. 27, at Oswego County BOCES, county Route 64, Mexico.

Oswego County takes title to residential and farm properties after the taxes have gone unpaid for approximately four years. Title is taken for vacant land and commercial properties after two years of non-payment of taxes. The auction inventory may include open land, mobile home sites, dwellings, commercial and waterfront properties.

Former owners were allowed to buy back their properties for the full amount of taxes due until Aug. 31.  Prior owners who did not pay the back taxes are now prohibited from bidding at auction and no longer have an interest or rights in the tax delinquent parcels they once owned.

David Hastings, Director of Real Property Tax Service, said a complete list of properties with photos and maps of each parcel are listed on the Oswego County Web site at www.oswegocounty.com/rpts or the Sivers Auction Service Web site at www.siversauctionservice.com .

The auction will be divided into two sessions.  The first session begins at 9:30 a.m. and will include parcels in the towns and/or villages of Granby, Hannibal, Hastings, Minetto, New Haven, Oswego Town, Palermo, Phoenix, Schroeppel, Scriba and Volney.

The second session will begin no earlier than 11 a.m. and will include parcels in the towns and/or villages of Albion, Amboy, Cleveland, Constantia, Mexico, Parish, Orwell, Redfield, Pulaski, Richland, Lacona, Sandy Creek, West Monroe and Williamstown.

Bidder registration will start at 8 a.m. and continue throughout the auction. In order to register, citizens must provide their driver’s license or other acceptable photo ID, and their social security number.

Bidders will receive a description and view a computer presentation that includes a photograph of each parcel as it is offered for sale. Prior owners, their immediate family members, and anyone having delinquent property taxes in Oswego County may not bid at the auction.

More information is available by contacting the Oswego County Real Property Tax Service at 315-349-8315 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 8315 or www.oswegocounty.com/rpts; or Sivers Auction Service Inc. at 315-343-3325, www.siversauctionservice.com .

Find Out When Your STAR Rebate Is Coming

</p>This screengrab from the state website shows when a STAR rebate check will be mailed to a City of Fulton taxpayer, and for how much.  Click the photo for a full-sized version.

This screengrab from the state website shows when a STAR rebate check will be mailed to a City of Fulton taxpayer, and for how much. Click the photo for a full-sized version.

Your STAR property tax rebate check will come in the mail sometime in September or early October. Provided, that is, that the state Legislature and Governor don’t use it to help fix the state’s budget problems first.

The state Division of Taxation and Finance this week unveiled a tool that will tell you how much you can expect when the STAR check arrives and when it will be mailed. Find it here:

http://www8.nystax.gov/SRLU/srluGateway

The 2008 STAR rebates go to any property owner who was part of the STAR system in 2007 or who applies for STAR benefits by the end of 2008. It goes only to taxpaying families earning $250,000 or less. If you’re not part of the STAR system but eligible, the state will mail you an application automatically by the end of October.

Seniors who receive extra tax benefits from the Enhanced STAR program will receive larger rebate checks. The state estimates they’ll be 40% larger than last year’s rebates.

The tool will tell you when your check will be mailed. The checks will be sent out in alphabetical order, by county.

However, state legislative leaders, seeking to close a multi-billion dollar gap in the state budget, have toyed with the idea of rolling the STAR tax break into a so-called “circuit breaker” that would give many families a school tax break by raising taxes on millionaires.

A majority of members of the State Senate this week defeated a plan advanced by some, but not all, Democrats that would have eliminated STAR rebate checks for some property owners in order to provide the “circuit breaker”.

Governor Paterson opposes tying STAR rebates to the circuit breaker, saying, “43 percent of people now receiving a STAR rebate check would not receive one under the circuit breaker program.”

A bill being taken up this week in the Assembly leaves the STAR program alone.

Analysts expect the STAR rebate program to be left alone, because it is popular with taxpayers and provides checks to taxpayers in the weeks before Election Day.

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