KEENE — Three residents voiced concerns regarding their property assessments at the Keene town board meeting July 10.
After speaking candidly to the board about the issue, Mitzi Piller said her home was assessed last April, and the results were surprising.
The documentation showed that the property had previously been assessed in 2002, and it also listed the names of the previous owners.
The problem is, Piller and her husband built the house five years ago when they relocated from Old Forge, and they are the only people to have ever lived there.
“The important thing is that the paperwork that was used for the assessment was wrong,” Piller said. “There’s someone’s name on there I don’t even recognize.”
Piller said she contacted Donna Bramer, the sole assessor for Keene, Jay, Lewis and St. Armand, and made plans to meet at Piller’s home to discuss the assessment, but Bramer never showed.
“I figured what I really wanted corrected was the data,” Piller said. “It’s not the amount (of the assessment), it’s the lack of professionalism with the people.”
Peter Fish has lived in the area since 1975, and said the value of the 1951 farmhouse he lives in has increased before, but not by a lot.
When this year’s assessment reflected a $10,000 increase, his wife went to the county office in Elizabethtown and returned with a stack of documents.
“My wife came back with endless sheets of information on other properties, all comparable to ours,” Fish said.
According to Fish, the documentation shows stark differences between property values, some of which are next door to one another.
At the meeting, he thanked the town board for taking people’s concerns in this matter to heart, but added that there is still work to be done to make the assessments equitable to all.
He also agreed with Piller, who said there are a lot of people in town who have been dealing with this.
Bramer refused to comment on the situation when contacted by the Valley News, but Town Supervisor Bill Ferebee said circumstances might have made the new assessor’s job particularily difficult this year.
“In her defense, she went through a flood and lost her building, along with all of her documentation,” Ferebee said, referring to the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene last summer.
Ferebee added that he thinks Bramer did a good job considering the amount of work she had to do, but that the town board is concerned she’s overloaded.
“She has a tough job, and she has three other towns to do,” Ferebee said.
Charli Lewis, director of Essex County Real Property Tax Services, said the goal of assessing properties is to determine how much they would sell for, a figure that is based in part on properties that have already sold.
“If you’re not happy with your assessment you go to grievance day, and if you’re still not satisfied you can move on to small claims court,” Lewis explained.
Grievance day is held annually the fourth Tuesday of May.
“There were only 63 grievances (this year), which accounts for 3 percent of the parcels in the town of Keene,” Lewis said.
Lewis added that, since data collecting for 2012 is finished, anyone who is not happy with their property value will have to wait for the next round of assessments in 2013 to file a grievance.