Lake Placid property values drop by $30.2M

More than 250 reductions drop total assessed value

LAKE PLACID — When Lake Placid’s property assessment rolls become official on July 1, the total assessed value of properties in the village and the town of North Elba is expected to be about $30.2 million less than tentative rolls projected.

After tentative property assessment rolls were released on May 1, North Elba Assessor Todd Anthony’s phone started ringing off the hook. On the other line were concerned property owners — many of whom were residential homeowners who saw their property values were projected to rise by around 18% in the tentative rolls compared to last year’s rolls. In a property assessment grievance process marked by widespread concern among homeowners and commercial property owners alike, the assessor’s office netted more than 250 property assessment reductions amounting to a loss of $30,237,294 in total assessed value from the tentative rolls.

The effect of these changes on property taxpayers will be a slightly higher tax rate from tax levies, according to Anthony. Tax levies — or the amount of money collected by governments and school districts — are distributed across a property tax base according to the base’s total assessed property value. With the loss of total and taxable property value, Anthony said, there’s less total value to distribute tax levies across.

Take the village of Lake Placid, for example, which has a $4,157,280 tax levy in its 2023-24 budget, which was approved Monday. Under the final assessment rolls, the village’s tax rate will be around $4.60 per $1,000 in assessed value. Under the tentative rolls — before the $30.2 million loss in assessed value — the village’s tax rate would have been closer to $4.45 per $1,000, according to village Treasurer Mindy Goddeau. For someone who owns a $300,000 property in the village, they would’ve paid $1,335 in yearly village taxes before the grievance process and will now pay around $1,380 in village taxes after the grievance process.

Overall, the grievance process dropped the total assessed value of properties in Lake Placid and North Elba by $30,237,294 — from $4,069,212,084 in the tentative rolls to $4,038,974,790 in the amended rolls, which are expected to be finalized on July 1.

Grieving the roll

Assessors are required by state law to hold four days of informal hearings for people who have questions or complaints about their new property assessments in the tentative rolls. Anthony calls this process “sitting with the roll,” and he sat for five days with property owners — one more day than required — because of the “outcry” against the increased assessments. These informal sessions produced 218 “stipulations,” or reductions in assessment that were agreed upon between Anthony and the property owner. The Board of Assessment Review then held three grievance days — one more than required — to hear 98 formal property assessment grievances that led to 52 assessment reductions. Between the stipulations and the board of assessment’s review, that’s a total of 270 reductions in property assessments.

Anthony views the grievance process as an educational experience — he learns new information about the number of bedrooms and bathrooms a unit may contain and real estate sales that might not have been on his radar. He’s even learned that some homes he thought were inhabitable actually aren’t.

Anthony said most of the reductions sought were for residential properties, though he said some commercial properties — including “big chain hotels” — also got reductions.

This year’s jump in property values, which is based on property evaluations performed from July 1, 2021 to July 1, 2022, reflects a real estate market still in the midst of a pandemic-related boom, according to Anthony. The competitive market has caused property assessments to rise at unprecedented rates in the last couple of years — especially as more and more out-of-town buyers scooped up properties with a willingness to pay well over market value. Last year, residential property assessments rose by around 11%. That was almost double the previous year’s 6% increase.

The sharply rising home assessments have changed not only the landscape of the grievance process, according to Anthony, causing more vocal concern among Lake Placid residents — the booming real estate market has also changed the landscape of the town itself.

“In a very quiet town in a very quiet year, (we) could easily deliberate,” Anthony said of the grievance process. “This is not a small town anymore, and it certainly wasn’t a quiet (year).”

These changes have led some Lake Placid homeowners to start asking questions about instituting a “homestead” property tax exemption, according to Anthony — some way to cushion the blow of increasing assessments for year-round homeowners, many of whom have claimed that short-term vacation rentals and second homeowners are largely responsible for the increased assessments and should be required to foot a larger portion of the town and village’s property tax bills. But Anthony said that what the state calls a “homestead tax option” isn’t an exemption at all, and the tax option does not favor primary homeowners in any way.

Homestead tax option

In New York, the homestead tax option the state’s way of enticing municipalities that have gone years without reassessment to reassess their properties. Commercial property values often rise at a slower pace than residential values, so when a municipality doesn’t perform annual reassessments, inequities begin to form in the tax roll, according to Anthony — residential property owners are often found to be underpaying property taxes when undervalued.

However, if an assessment is performed after years of this inequity, the tax burden is likely to sharply shift onto the residential property owners. The homestead tax option gives municipalities the opportunity to cushion the blow of the new assessment by locking in the inequity from the old assessment and bridging the gap from the old to the new assessment over the course of five years.

But in Lake Placid, property assessments are brought up to date every year. And even if they weren’t, Anthony said, the homestead tax option would lump all residential properties — whether owned by a primary, secondary, or absent homeowner and whether they’re single or multi-family homes — into the same class. What Anthony believes most primary homeowners in Lake Placid actually want — for second homeowners and STR owners to shoulder more of the property tax burden — hasn’t yet been legislated by the state.

Anthony was scheduled to discuss the homestead tax option on Wednesday during the North Elba Town Council’s workshop.


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