2017-08-09 / Front Page

Equalization Rates Discussed as Tension Runs High in Franklin

By Rosie Cunningham

FRANKLIN - Anger and tension overshadowed discussion of equalization rates at the Franklin Town Board meeting last week.

Franklin town assessor Jim Basile took the floor to explain equalization rates to the public. In recent months, Basile has been under fire from town residents for alleged misconduct.

Town resident Carl Lobdell exclaimed that Basile is “no good.”

Accusations and insinuations were made and fired back and forth between Lobdell and Basile following the equalization rates presentation.

During last month’s meeting, Basile was accused of taking money to “reassess” properties to better benefit the landowners. It was also alleged that town board members urged Basile to reassess their properties in their favor.

“Some of the information that was thrown at me was incorrect,” said Basile. “I have had two taxpayers offer me money (for differing reasons).”

In both instances, Basile said he did not accept.

Lobdell seemed to have had enough and said two years prior, Basile took money for an assessment.

“You stick up for your son all you want,” Lobdell said to Franklin Supervisor Jeff Taggart.

Lobdell continued on and said Taggart himself is guilty of making remarks.

“Also, every time he (Basile) wants a raise, he goes directly to Taggart,” said Lobdell.

“I have never,” said Basile.

“Jeff (Taggart), you yourself has said in the minutes ‘Jim wants a raise,’” said Lobdell.

“I am the villain in this. I like to keep my employees happy,” said Taggart. “We get together with the employees and ask would you like more money and most employees don’t say ‘no.’ I was the one that did most of the asking if they were looking for a pay increase.”

“Two years ago we gave each board member a $200 a year raise,” said Taggart. “I was the one who asked for that. We got to pay for the help we have.”

According to Lobdell, Mark Laing, Franklin highway superintendent, asked for a raise and he was told “could he wait a year?”

Lobdell said the town of Worcester fired Basile.

“They couldn’t wait to get rid of you,” he said to Basile of Worcester.

When asked who said that, Lobdell said the Worcester supervisor. However, when pressed, Lobdell could not come up with the name of the Worcester town supervisor.

“You got your information from the Worcester assessor, who is also the county,” said Basile.

“You’re a liar,” accused Lobdell, who also called him a “darn dope.”

Further discussion was shutdown and an individual in the audience asked if the sheriff needed to be called.

In regards to the presentation regarding equalization rates:

“There is often misinformation out there about equalization rates and it has been heightened as of late and what I want to do today, is go over basic information about equalization rates and how they are determined.”

In a Power Point, he explained why equalization rates required.

“It has no effect on how taxes are determined other than the way some exemptions are calculated,” he said.

According to Basile, real property tax law (RPT) requires all real property in each assessing unit to be assessed at a uniform percentage of value, each assessing district chooses its own uniform percentage, taxing district lines overlap multiple assessing districts and tax levies must be apportioned amongst assessing districts within a taxing district.

Each individual town in Delaware County (19 towns) are rated and their values are determined. Then the county has to levy and make those rates equal.

How are equalization rates used to apportion taxes?

According to Basile, assessing district value and equalization rates equals full value of the town, repeat above for all assessing districts within the taxing district, the sum of all full values equals the full value of the taxing district and the full value of the town and the full value of the taxing district.

“Determining the rates is a four step process,” said Basile. “You take the assessing district (Franklin), take assessed values and divide by the equalization rate. This gives you the full value to the town.”

Basile said the same procedure is done in the other 18 towns.

“Add together all full values and now you have full value of taxing district which in this case is the county,” he said. “Take the full value of town and divide it by the full value of the taxing district and we have the apportionment.”

Basile drew on an apportionment from 2010 showing all 19 towns and their equalization rates, the assessed value for the town and the rest is calculation.

“Determine full value for each, the full value of the county and divide it by the individual towns,” he said.

In 2010, 3.932 percent was the apportionment in the town of Franklin.

“We can change the assessed value of town and change the apportionment,” he assessed. “If everything stayed the same in county, but equalization is changed to 80 percent (rather than77 percent), it changes the portion Franklin would pay of the county levy (3.79 percent).”

If a group of properties was reappraised and changed but the equalization rate didn’t change, the town pays a higher percentage of the county levy.

“The State of New York has say on the equalization rate and the assessor has input,” said Basile. “The big thing however, is that there is no way of predicting what the apportion is because there are 18 other towns. I have seen the states estimate of equalization rate does not pan out when a reappraisal occurs. If towns go through reappraisal, they can pick up county share if a town is not careful.”

Basile provided the history of Franklin equalization rate (Basil has been assessor since 1996).

Basile said in regards to equalization rates, the focus from the NYS Department of Tax and Finances is on residential and farm and vacant land.

“It makes no sense to me that farm and vacant lands are together - they are two completely different animals,” said Basil. “This year residential was at 95.19 percent and farms and lands was at 91.65 percent. In 2012, nearly all the vacant lands and farms increased in the ball park of 12 to 15 percent. In 2013, the state catches up with farms and vacant lands and in 2014 residential and farms and vacant lands were the same.”

Basile said it is easy for residential owners to not see changes of assessment.

“The long term goal that I want for the town of Franklin, is to be ranked the best as possible in terms of apportionment,” he said. “I want apportionment for county purposes as low as possible, the equalization rate as high as possible with the assessments as low as possible.”

Basile said he welcomes the public to come forward if they would like to further discuss assessment and equalization rates.

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