The following news story was first reported in the Eagle Observer in 2009. The impact on the community was so great in that at year's end, we followed up to bring you the latest on the issue. Next week, look for updates on last year's biggest stories in Marcellus, and a roundup of noteworthy 2009 news.
Elbridge underwent a town-wide revaluation to equalize the assessed values across the town in 2009. But the gap between the 2003 assessment rates, when the last reval had been completed, and then-assessor Larry Fitts' 2009 reval created an uproar among taxpayers.
The Elbridge Town Board fielded questions from more than 40 residents at one board meeting, and brought in two speakers to address taxpayers' concerns. The assessment office scheduled more than 550 informal hearings for residents to argue their assessments. Some residents requested the board to put the reval on pause until 2010, in light of the economy; others asked the board to fire Fitts.
Ultimately, fewer than 10 property owners grieved their assessment to the Board of Assessment Review, but the experience lead to big changes in the town.
In October, the towns of Camillus and Elbridge entered into a coordinated assessment program and Elbridge replaced Fitts with Camillus assessor Celeste Karakas. The program maintained a staffed assessment office in each town but joined both towns in an annual reval program, primarily to avoid another 2009-scenario and keep assessment rates equitable.
Karakas said last week that although at the Elbridge office there was "quite a bit of data that needs to be looked at," the staff was catching up and preparing for the 2010 reval.
"At least I'm getting a feel for the town," she said.
Karakas reminded taxpayers the deadline for renewing exemptions is March 1. All senior and STAR exemptions must be renewed for the new tax year; forms are available at the assessment office.
Assessment information can also be found at townofcamillus.com and townofelbridge.com. Property owners are encouraged to verify current assessment information is accurate and notify their assessment office immediately if errors are found.