Friday, May 8, 2015

Your New Assessment and School Taxes

So, my dear Clarence resident, your assessment went up? Shot up? I feel you. Your natural reaction is likely to be outrage, and you're probably very concerned about what this will do about your taxes - including school taxes. (If your assessment shot up by a ridiculous amount, CHALLENGE IT).

Let me talk you off the ledge. First:

1. YOUR TAXES ARE NOT LIKELY TO CHANGE DRAMATICALLY. As far as the school tax levy is concerned, that amount needed to be raised has already been determined - the increased value of the town isn't going to make the levy go up (or down); it will remain constant. That gross levy amount is divvied up to all property owners in proportion to their values, based on their property assessment. EVEN IF YOUR ASSESSMENT DOUBLED, THE SCHOOL TAX BILL SHOULD REMAIN THE SAME. In point of fact, because of the increased assessments, the school tax rate may actually decrease.  Home values are outpacing the increases in tax levies, and because many assessments seem to be in excess of the 3.8% hike in the school tax levy, it is a mathematical certainty that the school tax rate will decrease (again) to reflect the town's increased value.

2. The School District had nothing to do with this. Assessments are handled by the town, and the assessor, whom we share with Lancaster.

3. On the bright side, an increased assessment is a good thing; it is a reflection of the free market and indicates how desirable our town is. A townwide assessment like this hasn't been done in several years, and property values have shot up since the last one came around.

4. With respect to the school district and its role in your property value, the connection has never been more stark - your property value going up so dramatically is a reflection of the fact that, among other things, you live in a community that boasts a high performing, cost-effective district. If you're pissed off about your school taxes because of the re-assessments, don't be. After all, you're not going to be paying any more, and the low school taxes in Clarence as compared with other communities helped contribute to the increase in your property value.

5. ANYONE WHO TRIES TO USE THE REASSESSMENTS AS A REASON TO FAIL THE SCHOOL BUDGET IS WRONG. They're either being willfully ignorant, or they're deliberately lying, because the reassessment will NOT CHANGE YOUR SCHOOL TAXES. The levy of $75,392,337 has already been set, and if property values are going up, the rates will go down to raise that money. The rate is calculated by dividing the levy amount by the assessed value of the town.

Here are some more facts:

- The estimated tax rate ($15.37) that is in the proposed 2015-16 budget is based on total assessments that are not inclusive of the most recent re-valuations. The school district used the 2014-15 total assessed value numbers to determine the estimated tax rate. This is usually done in order to be conservative and to make sure that the actual tax rate determined in August when the final assessment numbers are in is lower than the estimated tax rate put out with the budget.

- The school tax levy doesn’t change, regardless of changes in the total assessed value for the towns that make up the school district. The tax levy is apportioned across the total assessed value in order to determine the tax rate. When the total assessed value increases, the estimated tax rate decreases because the levy is apportioned over a larger total assessed value.

- If there is a big jump in total assessed value for the towns that make up the school district, the estimated tax rate of $15.37 will certainly be lower. The one element to factor in is the exemption provided to veterans. That exemption will likely shift approximately 1% of the total tax levy to non-veterans. Increases above that 1% - which are highly likely given the fact that a number of homes were reassessed - will mean that the actual tax rate will be lower than $15.37.

- If you compare the published total valuations from the Town of Clarence website - the increase in value year over year would be $217,403,602. The tax rate would be $14.28 (you can go to the Town website to see the actual assessed value for the school districts).  Given that rate – a 200K house that was reassessed at 215K would have a total tax bill of $110 – in line with what the district estimated.  (Caution – the town numbers are estimates at this point and do not include challenges and other factors – they will not be final until the summer).

- NYS provided the district with a town "true growth factor "of 1.5% (prior to reevaluations) so the district is very confident that the actual tax rate will be much lower than the estimated rate of $15.37

- It is worth remembering that the increase in taxes year over year will be rebated to homeowners by the state in November.

Please don't let people take advantage of others' misunderstanding about this process. One anti-school board candidate is so afraid of the truth, and of people correcting his misstatements, that he goes on wild deletion sprees every day.

Know that anyone who tries to exploit the reassessments in order to fail a school budget is playing games, manipulating the truth with propaganda. Frankly, anyone who says the reassessments should reinforce the need to fail the budget - you know, like this:

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