The overall tax assessment is up 10 percent in Southampton Town, with an estimated 30,000 property owners expected to receive notice of increased assessments in the next week, two weeks earlier than usual, tax assessor Lisa Goree said at a Southampton Town Board work session on April 11.
The urgency in sending letters out early is an effort on the part of the assessor’s office to give residents ample time to discuss their assessments with the assessor’s office and potentially file grievances in advance of Grievance Day on May 21. This year, according to a press release issued by town officials, beginning April 22, a grievance submission portal will be available to property owners on the town’s website, southamptontownny.gov.
During last Thursday’s work session, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman cautioned residents that an increase in the assessed value of their property will not necessarily mean an increase in property taxes as well.
“People automatically think if they get a letter that their property value went up that means their taxes went up,” said Mr. Schneiderman. “That is actually not true. It depends on the tax rate. If the tax rate goes down enough to offset the increase in property value, there is not an increase in taxes. There might even be a decrease. Over the last few years we have, every year, lowered the tax rate at the same time as we have seen property values across the town increase.”
The Town of Southampton is one of just a few towns in the state that operates as a full valuation town, where properties are taxed at their full value. Every four years — including 2019 — the town takes a comprehensive look at its full assessment. In other years, assessments increased based on new construction or home improvements or on market trends in a particular neighborhood. This year’s assessment is based on the sales period between July 1 of 2017 and June 30 of 2018, according to Ms. Goree.
Last Thursday, board members discussed how challenging increased assessments can be for residents on fixed incomes or young families starting out in their first home.
“We have talked about that — how can we protect the year-round family,” said Mr. Schneiderman.
Board members also expressed concerns about residents not pursuing the construction of affordable, accessory apartments — one of the cornerstones of the town’s affordable housing program — for fear of increased assessment. Mr. Schneiderman noted that if the construction is in an existing footprint of a residence, it should not increase property value, especially since that homeowner is limited in how much rent they can charge for the apartment. Mr. Schneiderman said residents should also know whether the construction of a nitrogen-reducing septic system would increase their property value.
“People are putting these systems in and if they thought the property value would go up because they did the right thing for the environment, they might be upset about that and understandably so,” he said.
Ultimately, said Mr. Schneiderman, if assessments continue to rise, local governments and schools districts will need to lower their tax rates — and significantly so — to protect residents from large tax increases.
“It means we have to lower our tax rate, or we will probably pierce the cap and we don’t control the school districts which are 70, 80 percent of the tax bill,” said Mr. Schneiderman. “They are going to have to lower their tax rates.”