Neighbors in Watkins Glen, Dix, and Hector could soon be seeing sticker shock when new assessments come this week. Assessments in the Village of Watkins Glen are going up 7%, in the Town of Hector, 8%.
“We did this same analysis a couple years ago and didn't see this kind of movement,” said Tom Bloodgood, the Real Property Tax Director for Schuyler County. “But you make adjustments when you need to make adjustments in order to make sure the assessments reflect market value.”
Schuyler County officials say that rising sale prices on homes are the reason assessments are going up. They say it’s not about people paying more; it’s about people paying their fair share. “It’s a zero-sum game,” said Bloodgood. “For every dollar that I don't pay because I'm under-assessed, you pay a dollar more.”
But bad news for neighbors means good news for the Watkins Glen School District. The higher assessments mean the district is bringing in an extra $24 million, and able to lower its property tax rate.
“By having that economic development, we were able to reduce what was a $0.33 increase and turn it into an $0.11 decrease for all property owners who are under the STAR exemption,” said Watkins Glen Superintendent Tom Phillips.
For example, if homeowners pay $10 of taxes per $1,000 of home value, a homeowner with a $100,000 home paid $1,000 in taxes before. Under the new tax rate, that same homeowner will pay $989 in taxes. But, if your assessment went up, you’re more than likely paying more in taxes than you were before.
Phillips says it’s important that voters know the difference between a tax levy, which is tied to spending, and the tax rate. “We’re a great example,” says Phillips. “We have a 2.76% increase in the levy, yet a $0.11 decrease per $1,000 in the tax rate.”
Phillips says the district is taking in exactly the same amount of money with its budget, but the extra money being brought in under the assessment means the tax rate will fall.