Planning & Economic
Supervisor: Lynn Chatfield
Councilman: Adam Ellis, Jr.
Councilman: Dan Youngman
Councilman: Zachary Decker
Councilwoman: Lori Furguson
Town of Wolcott
6070 Lake Ave.
Wolcott , NY 14590
Email: Town Clerk
Monday - 8:00-5:30
Tuesday - 8:00-5:00
Thursday - 8:00-5:00
Friday - 8:00-3:30
We are closed:
Wednesdays, Weekends and Holidays
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Town Sole Assessor
Amber Roberts Phone: 315-594-9325 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hours of Business
Monday 9:00 - 3:00
Tuesday 9:00 - 3:00
Thursday 9:00 - 3:00
Friday 9:00 - 1:00
Town of Wolcott’s Tentative Assessment Rolls
The Job of the Assessor
Who is the Assessor?
The assessor is a local government official who estimates the value of real property within a city, town, or village's boundaries. This value is converted into an assessment, which is one component in the computation of real property tax bills.
What Training Does the Assessor Have To Take?
Assessors must obtain basic certification by New York State within three years of taking office*. This requires the successful completion of orientation, three assessment administration course components, and five appraisal components, including farm appraisal for certain agricultural communities. The New York State Office of Real Property Services (ORPS) prescribes the components.
*Assessors in Nassau County, Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers are not required to obtain basic certification.
Each year, appointed assessors must complete an average of 24 hours of continuing education. Both elected and appointed assessors may attain any of three advanced designations awarded by ORPS: State Certified Assessor-Advanced, State Certified Assessor-Professional, and State Certified Assessor-National.
What Does an Assessor Do?
The assessor is obligated by New York State law to maintain assessments at a uniform percentage of market value each year. The assessor signs an oath to this effect when certifying the tentative assessment roll -- the document containing each property assessment. The physical description (or inventory) and value estimate of every parcel is required to be kept current. In order to maintain a uniform roll, each year your assessor will need to analyze all of the properties in the municipality to determine which assessments need to be changed.
Where assessments need to be changed, in some cases, your assessor will be able to increase or decrease the assessments of a neighborhood or group of properties by applying real estate market trends to those properties. This is possible only when the assessments to be changed are at a uniform level other than the municipality's stated level of assessment. In other cases, the assessor will need to conduct physical reinspections for reappraisals of properties. Every assessing unit should be keeping all assessments at a fair and uniform level every year.
The assessment roll shows assessments and appropriate exemptions. Every year the roll, with preliminary or tentative assessments, is made available for public inspection. After the Board of Assessment Review (BAR) has acted on assessment complaints and ordered any changes, the tentative assessment roll is made final.
What Kind of Property is Assessed?
All real property, commonly known as real estate, is assessed. Real property is defined as land and any permanent structures attached to it. Some examples of real property are houses, gas stations, office buildings, vacant land, motels, shopping centers, saleable natural resources (oil, gas, timber), farms, apartment buildings, factories, restaurants, and, in most instances, mobile homes.
How is Real Property Assessed?
Before assessing any parcel of property, the assessor estimates its market value. Market value is how much a property would sell for, in an open market, under normal conditions. To estimate market values, the assessor must be familiar with all aspects of the local real estate market.
A property's value can be estimated in three different ways. First, property is compared to others similar to it that have sold recently, using only sales where the buyer and seller both acted without undue pressure. This method is called the market approach and is normally used to value residential, vacant, and farm properties.
The second way is to calculate the cost, using today's labor and material prices, to replace the structure with a similar one. If the structure is not new, the assessor determines the depreciation since it was built. The resulting value is added to an estimate of the market value of the land. This method, called the cost approach, is used to value special purpose and utility properties.
The third way is to analyze how much income a property (like an apartment building, store, or factory) will produce if rented. Operating expenses, insurance, maintenance costs, financing terms, and how much money expected to be earned are considered. This method is called the income approach.
Properties in sub optimal uses generally may not be assessed at market value; they must be assessed at their current-use value.
Assessors with computers can estimate values more efficiently than by hand. Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) techniques are used to analyze sales and estimate values for many properties at once.
Once the assessor estimates the market value of a property, its assessment is calculated. New York State law provides that all property within a municipality be assessed at a uniform percent of market value. The level of assessment can be five percent, 20 percent, 50 percent, or any other fraction, up to 100 percent. Everyone pays his or her fair share of taxes as long as every property in a locality is assessed at the same percent of value.
For example, a house with a market value of $100,000 located in a town that assesses at 15 percent of value would have an assessment of $15,000. The assessment is multiplied by the tax rate for each taxing jurisdiction - city, town, village, school district, etc. - to determine the tax bills. (For further explanation of this process, see “How the Property Tax Works”.
Does the Assessor have to be let into your home?
The New York State Assessors' Association pamphlet, “Understanding Assessments and Property Taxes,” states:
The Assessor has a right to go to your front door and seek admittance (possibly he or she will only want to inspect the exterior of the house) but must leave the premises if asked to do so.
If it is really inconvenient to allow an inspection at that time, tell your visitor just that and try to make an appointment for some other date. However, if you can spare the ten minutes or so that will usually be required, we urge that you allow it to proceed so that the information necessary for equitable assessment can be gathered.
The pamphlet cautions property owners not to allow anyone into their homes without proper identification, preferably I.D. cards with photographs signed by an authorized town or city official. “No identification — no entry!”
What Else Does an Assessor Do?
The assessor performs many other administrative functions, such as inspecting new construction and major improvements to existing structures. This ensures that the record of each property's physical inventory is current and that the appropriate improvements are assessed.
The assessor also approves and keeps track of property tax exemptions. Among the most common are the senior citizen, School Tax Relief (STAR), veterans, agricultural, and business exemptions.
The Real Property System is a computer software package (created and maintained by ORPS) to assist assessment administration functions. It is available to assessors who have the necessary computer equipment, and allows them to electronically maintain the assessment roll and related records. Corrections to State form RP-5217 can also be sent to the State Board electronically. T he Real Property System also includes computer-assisted mass appraisal programs for value estimation and assessment updates.
Legally, the assessor must be present at all public hearings of the Board of Assessment Review (BAR). The BAR may request the assessor to present evidence in support of tentative assessments being grieved by taxpayers. After meeting in private without the assessor, the BAR makes its decisions and orders any appropriate changes to the assessment roll before it becomes final. If assessment reductions are denied by the BAR, and property owners appeal to Small Claims Assessment Review, the assessor prepares evidence for those hearings.
The assessor reviews every transfer of real property for accuracy, including the basic information on the buyer, seller, and sale price. Assessment records are updated, and any unusual conditions affecting the transfer are also verified. Results are recorded on form RP-5217 at the real estate closing. The assessor makes corrections to this form.
ORPS requires assessors to file an annual report on assessment changes. ORPS also "equalizes" property assessments to a common full (market) value in each municipality. More information on the ORPS full value measurement program is available.
Where Can I Go With Questions?
The assessor is continually communicating with the public, answering questions, and dealing with concerns raised by taxpayers. Anyone can examine the assessment roll and property records at any time. However, between Taxable Status Day and the filing of the tentative roll (generally, March through May), it should be done by appointment.
It is up to individual property owners to monitor their own assessments. Taxpayers who feel they are not being fairly assessed should meet with their assessor before the tentative assessment roll is established. In an informal setting, the assessor can explain how the assessment was determined and the rationale behind it.
Assessors are interested only in fairly assessing property in their assessing unit. If your assessment is correct and your tax bill still seems too high, the assessor cannot change that. Complaints to the assessor must be about how property is assessed.
Taxpayers unhappy with growing property tax bills should not be concerned only with assessments. They should also examine the scope of budgets and expenditures of the taxing jurisdictions (counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts, etc.) and address those issues in appropriate and available public forums.
Informal meetings with assessors to resolve assessment questions about the next assessment roll can take place throughout the year. If, after speaking with your assessor, you still feel you are unfairly assessed, the booklet, “How to Contest Your Assessment” describes how to prepare and file a complaint with the Board of Assessment Review for an assessment reduction, and indicates the time of year it can be done.
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PROPERTY TAX MYTHS & MISUNDERSTANDINGS
Assessors determine property taxes
Typically property tax rates are set by school boards, town boards, village boards, and county legislatures, but not by assessors. Each board determines the total amount of taxes it needs to raise, and then divides that number by the total taxable assessed value of the jurisdiction to determine the tax rate. Your share of the tax is calculated by multiplying the tax rate by your property’s assessed value minus exemptions, such as STAR.
Assessors are responsible for determining your property’s assessed value. In order to do this, the assessor estimates your property’s market value (the price it would sell for in the real estate market), and then applies the municipal level of assessment (LOA) to that market value. In many communities, the level of assessment is 100 percent, so a home with a market value of $90,000 has an assessed value of $90,000. In a town with a level of assessment of 50 percent, the assessed value of the same home is $45,000.
The assessor also performs other functions, such as processing exemption applications and keeping track of the local real estate market, but the assessor does not determine your tax rate.
Taxes are high because of assessments
It’s important to distinguish between taxes and assessments. If you feel your taxes are too high, you should take that up with the town board, school board, or other governing authority that is determining tax levies and setting the tax rates. If you feel your assessment is too high, there are administrative and judicial processes where you can seek to have your assessment lowered.
Assessments should be based on market value, and if you feel your assessment is too high, your first step in confirming that is to determine your property’s market value. The best way to do this is to look at the sale prices of similar properties in similar neighborhoods.
If you still feel that your assessment is too high, we recommend that you informally discuss your concerns with your assessor. More information on the grievance process is available from your assessor’s office and online.
NY State collects too much money through property taxes
While New York State government receives no money from the real property tax, this stable revenue source is vitally important to the delivery of services to the state’s citizens. Local governments and school districts collect the property tax, which is their largest source of revenue. That’s one of the main reasons that property taxes and assessments are administered locally (rather than by the state) in New York.
Equalization rates can correct unfair assessments
Equalization rates are determined by the State Office of Real Property Services and represent the overall ratio of a municipality’s total assessed value to the municipality’s total market value. Because equalization rates are municipal wide measures, they are not intended to correct unfair individual assessments in a city or town. The assessor has the primary role in ensuring the fairness of individual assessments, subject to the right of owners to seek administrative and judicial review of assessments.
While equalization rates have many uses, they are most commonly known for their use in apportioning property taxes among municipal segments of school districts and counties. In order for a school district or county to fairly distribute its property tax levy (the total amount of taxes to be collected), the levy needs to be divided in proportion to the total market value of each municipality or municipal segment. This allows for an equitable distribution of taxes based upon the market value of each municipality or segment.
In the apportionment process, the equalization rate is used to estimate the total market value of an entire municipality and/or segments of municipalities. The formula used for this calculation is:
Equalization rate formula
Tax rates are good indicators of tax increases.
In late August, as the date for mailing school tax bills approaches, the tendency is to compare the tax rate for the previous year with the tax rate for the current year. In fact, tax rates are not accurate indicators of how much more a school district is collecting in taxes this year. For that, you need to look at the tax levy.
Tax rates are misleading because they are based on the aggregate assessments of each municipal segment in the school district. If one city or town in the district has done a reassessment that year, that segment’s tax rate may drop drastically. Put another way, a municipality might increase assessments and the school could keep the tax rate the same and it would still collect more taxes.
If you want to know if the school district, city, town, or county is spending more, look at the budget. If you want to know if it’s collecting more in taxes, look at the levy.
A cap on assessments would lower property tax burdens
Occasionally, a proposal is made to cap assessment increases at a certain percentage each year. Doing so would result in some property owners paying less than their fair share of taxes, while their bills are subsidized by other homeowners. Eventually, properties that are increasing in value more quickly would be underassessed, while properties that are not increasing in value as quickly would be subsidizing the underassessed property’s taxes. (Typically, in the case of residential properties, lower-valued homes increase in value slower than higher-valued homes.)
Meanwhile the town, county and school district would continue to collect the same amount of taxes that they would if assessments weren’t capped. A cap on assessments doesn’t result in less taxes being collected, it just redistributes the tax burden to the disadvantage of properties increasing in value more slowly.
I have to be 65 to get the STAR exemption
All New Yorkers who own and live in their one-, two-, or three-family home, condominium, cooperative apartment, mobile home or farm home are eligible for the Basic STAR tax cut on their primary residence. There are no age or income limitations with Basic STAR.
Seniors with incomes not exceeding the statewide standard may be eligible for the Enhanced STAR exemption. Applicants need only be 65 years of age as of December 31 of the year in which the exemption will begin. If you think you may be eligible, please contact your assessor for more information.
The STAR exemption is ending
The STAR program does not have a sunset (or expiration) date. In other words, NY’s homeowners will continue to benefit from STAR unless the Legislature votes to end it.
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IMPORTANT DATES ON THE ASSESSMENT CALENDAR
March 1st - Taxable Status Date
The Assessor is required by New York State law to value property as it is on this date. A partially completed building will receive a partial assessment based on its estimated percentage of completion as of March 1st. If you suffer a loss to your property (ex: fire, demolition) after this date you will see no reduction for that loss on forthcoming roll. Exemption forms must be filed by this date also.
May 1st - Tentative Roll
The tentative roll is a list, in property I.D. order, of all Real property in the town as of Taxable Status Date. some of the information on these parcels includes owner's names, locations, acreage, property class, assessed values, and exemptions.
4th Tuesday in May - Grievance Day
All complaints about assessments and exemptions must be received no later than this day. If you fail to file your complaint by grievance day you will not be able to file again until the next year. The Board of Assessment Review begins its hearings on this date.
July 1st - Final Roll
Any changes made to the Tentative Roll by the Board of Assessment Review will show on this roll.
September 1st - School taxes become due, payable to the School Tax Collector.
January 1st - Town and County taxes become due, payable to the Town Tax Collector.
All property transfers are recorded in this office. New owners names are recorded as well as selling prices of properties involved. Sales verification letters are sent to ascertain the correctness of this information.
All property merges and splits are recorded and given an assessed value. Tax maps are located in this office also. They show the dimensions of parcels and their location in the Town.
Properties may be cross-referenced by location, owner's names, and property I.D.
New construction and renovations are reviewed and assessed.
Exemptions are administered by this office.
Some of the exemptions available on the 2009 roll to qualified property owners are:
Veterans Exemption - must have served during a qualifying period of war (DD214 requested) - no renewal required
Agricultural Exemption - must qualify and renew yearly.
Business Exemption - new construction or remodeling of an existing structure, must qualify.
Senior Citizen Exemption - 65 years or older, income based, including Social Security, yearly renewal required.
Basic Star Exemption - available to all homeowners, primary residence only, regardless of age or income.
Enhanced Star Exemption - 65 years or older with income less than $ 73,000.00. Yearly renewal required.
Low Income Disability - must submit one of the following: Award Letter from Social Security Administration; Award Letter from Railroad Retirement Board; Certificate from State Commission for the Blind and Visually handicapped. Yearly renewal required.
All exemptions above have a March 1st deadline
Exemption forms are available at: www.orps.state.ny.us
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