The Putnam Examiner

Carmel Town Board Against Homestead Tax Option

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Carmel town board members pledged they wouldn’t establish the homestead tax option as part of the town’s tax revaluation, calling the preference unfair to residents that own condominiums and townhouses that could lead to a mass exodus.

During the town board meeting Wednesday night, more than 100 residents received an update about the town’s revaluation efforts with the primary concern on the homestead option. But the town board appeared to temper those fears by making statements that expressed opposition to it.

John Wolham, the regional director for New York State’s Real Property Tax Office, said the homestead tax option could only occur during a revaluation. It usually only occurs to assist a municipality with onerous or bad shifts in taxes from a reassessment, he said.

The homestead option would ensure condos and townhouses are assessed as single property homes instead of the current formula that has them part of commercial property rental units. The option establishes two separate tax property rates; a lower rate for residential owners and higher rate for all other property owners, according to the state department of taxation and finance. Numbers revealed at the meeting indicated condo and townhouse owners could see a sharp spike in their tax bill.

Councilman Jonathan Schneider, who was against it, said there could be an 89 percent tax increase on condo owners overall. He believes that would result in increased foreclosures and short sales resulting in a decrease in home value throughout the town.

“Maybe we can send everyone here home with an early Christmas, Hanukah, Festivus (gift),” Schneider said in hopes of other board members agreeing to rule out the homestead option.

Councilman Frank Lombardi said the adoption of the homestead option “would just be unfair.” Lombardi said seniors and young families would be negatively affected and there would be a significant amount of empty townhouses.

“This will be half a zombie town,” Lombardi said. “Homestead is not necessary and not on the table.”

Supervisor Ken Schmitt and Councilwoman Suzi McDonough both voiced they were against the homestead option as well.

While Councilman John Lupinacci also expressed the likelihood of voting against the homestead option, he did note he would have liked to crunch the numbers more before the board made a definite decision.

“Looking at the preliminary numbers obviously Helen Keller could see it’s probably not a good idea,” Lupinacci said. “However the analyst in me would like to see more numbers.”

Mahopac resident and homeowner Bob Buckley said he was “100 percent” against the homestead option because condo owners, when they purchased their homes, budgeted to only pay a certain amount in taxes. If homestead was enacted, a major financial burden would be placed on condo owners and Carmel could become a “ghost town.”

“It’s a very scary proposition,” Buckley said.

Southeast is the only town in Putnam County with the homestead option, which was enacted back in the 1990s.

Several condominium representatives thanked the town board for opposing the homestead option. One condo owner, who said her name was Jenny, came from the Bronx to Carmel with her husband and their one-year-old daughter last year. She said living in a condo allows her to afford to live in a nice community like Carmel.

“If this were to pass, we would have to leave,” she said. “We wouldn’t be able to afford it. We’d have to uproot her life, our lives and everything we’ve grown to love over the last year.”

Town assessor Glen Droese said by March 1, 2017 all property owners in the town should get their disclosure notices in the mail about their tax assessment. The notice will have the 2016 market value, the new preliminary market value for 2017 and an estimate for tax change. If the value appears incorrect, information should be collected by the property owner to refute the new assessment, Droese said. Informal reviews will occur March 6 to April 7, 2017 with Vision Government Solutions for owners fighting their new assessment. There is no fee for the meeting.

If a property owner appeals the first estimate, they’ll get a second decision by May, Droese said. This is the town’s first reassessment in 20 years.

“I suggest you start now and look at your property,” Droese said.

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