Spafford equalization rates may rise again, affect school taxes

— According to the State Office of Real Property Tax Services, equalization seeks to measure the relationship of locally assessed values to an ever-changing real estate market. At its simplest, an equalization rate is the state’s measure of a municipality’s level of assessment. This is the ratio of total assessed value to the municipality’s total market value.

An equalization rate of 100 means that the municipality is assessing property at 100 percent of market value; an equalization rate of greater than 100 means that the total assessed value for the municipality is greater than its total market value.

The Real Property Tax Law requires that annual state equalization rates be established for each county, city, town and village. Equalization rates are calculated each year to reflect that year’s assessment roll and current market values for each assessing unit.

In order for a school district to fairly distribute its property tax levy (the total amount of school taxes to be collected), the levy needs to be divided in proportion to the total market value of each municipal segment. This is intended to allow for an equitable distribution of taxes based upon the market value of each municipality or segment.

If Spafford’s equalization rate were to be at 100 percent, then the tax levy would fall equally between all the towns within the school district. At 115 percent, a portion of the tax levy that was expected to be paid by Spafford shifts to Skaneateles and the other towns in the district.

The impact of Spafford having a 115 percent equalization rate would mean that the Skaneateles tax rate would increase by 3.74 percent, Spafford’s would decrease by .68 percent, and the other towns in the school district would see increased rates of about 5.8 percent, Bates said.

“This certainly hurts us, and is pushing the tax burden unfairly to other towns,” said district Superintendent Phil D’Angelo.

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