New York State Exposed: Home assessment investigation

Updated: 02/13/2014 7:12 PM
Created: 02/13/2014 7:21 AM WHEC.com
By: Berkeley Brean

Fear, outrage, confusion is what people in the Rochester area are feeling after they received a surprise letter in the mail. Those letters told homeowners the value of their home is going up by as much as $13,000. Their main concern is what is the increase is going to do to their property taxes?

State law says properties must be assessed at a full value and the state gives towns aid if they re-assess every four years. They're happening in 11 towns in Monroe County, from Wheatland to Penfield to Henrietta. This is affecting hundreds of thousands of people. But News10NBC is focusing on what's happening in Greece because that's where we've heard most of the complaints.

Part of the anger with these homeowners is that this increased assessment came as a complete surprise. A two page letter saying the cost of their home and the cost of their home and the cost of their living could be going up.

The increased home assessments are happening to all kinds of families, a family of 11, a family on the lake with kids in school, a widow who doesn't speak English, a single mother who rescues pets.

Sandy Shea lives in this Cape Cod in Greece. The letter from the Greece town assessor says her home assessment is going up $9,500, a 10 percent increase. 

Sandy Shay-Cadwell says she doesn't remember anyone from the town inspecting her home. Neither do Stephanie and Greg Hubbel. The assessment on their colonial is going up $13,000 and their property taxes are based on the assessed value of their home. So this increase could increase the amount of property taxes they pay.

Stephanie Hubbel said, “We're not getting 9.5% raises every year in our income. Where does this property tax money come from for us?”

Greg Hubbel said, “If we had a chance at a vacation, I think it's going to go away.”

News10NBC took this confusion and frustration to the source. Greece Town Assessor Leo Carroll 

says his office assesses homes based on what they could sell for on the open market. He says re-assessments like the one going on right now balance the playing field. 

Leo Carroll, Greece Town Assessor, said, “Basically that everyone is paying their fair share. Not too much. Not too less. Some homeowners will go up more than others. Some will actually go down if they're assessment is too high.”

The office compiles home sale stats. It inspects homes from the street and analyzes permits filed with the town for home improvements. State law says every home and building must be fully assessed and the state gives towns money if they re-assess every four years. 

News10NBC’s Berkeley Brean asked, “A lot of the people I talked to don't think they could sell their house for the preliminary assessment that came in the mail.”

Carroll said, “Well then they should come in a talk to us and we can go over the facts and figures with them.”

Here are a couple of facts right now. Sandy Shea's new preliminary assessment is more than $99,000. 

According to the assessor's office, the average Cape Cod in Greece sells for $95,000.

Sandy Shea-Cadwell said, “I had a realtor come in to give me his estimate on what he thinks the house is worth and it's not even worth what they had me assessed for.”

She's worried this increase in assessment is going to increase her taxes. Her calculation is $400 a year. 

On a fixed income, that's a lot of money. 

Shea-Cadwell said, “And that's all I’ve got. If they don't reduce it, I guess I have to pay it. I won't like it very much and I might go see what Governor Cuomo has to say about it because it just doesn't seem fair.”

There is a way to fight your re-assessment. In Greece, for instance, you have until March 1 to schedule an informal hearing at the assessor's office. If that doesn't get it lowered, you can have an official hearing in front of the assessment review board. That's in late May. If you're still unhappy, you can go to small claims and file a complaint there. 

Who are these assessors? Where do they get their authority? Town assessors are appointed by your town boar, but they are independent of your board and town supervisor. In Greece, the assessor's term is six years. Leo Carroll's term ended last fall, but he's staying on through this re-assessment.  

To contact your town assessor, click here.

Click here for important assessment information for homeowners in Greece.

Click here for to see when your town is getting reassessed.

What concerns do you have living in New York State. Share your ideas for stories you want us to investigate. You can call the New York State Exposed hotline at 627-2610 or email newyorkstateexposed@whec.com.


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