Assessor explains renovation tax break proposal

SARANAC LAKE – Harrietstown Assessor Doug Tichenor outlined specifics of a proposed tax break for village homeowners who upgrade their properties at Monday night’s village board meeting.

Under the local law being considered by the board, the increase in assessed value resulting from renovations to single- and two-family homes would be eligible for a reduction based on an eight-year sliding scale.

“The first year, the increase is 100 percent exempt,” Tichenor said. “The second year it’s 87.5 percent exempt, the third year 75 percent, sliding on down until after the eighth year, it’s off. It goes in as fully taxable.”

The exemption is limited to a maximum of $80,000 in increased market value. It applies to residential buildings that have been “reconstructed, altered or improved” but not ordinary maintenance and repairs. The cost of the improvement must exceed $3,000.

The local law would only apply to village taxes. Trustee Paul Van Cott has asked the three towns that lie partially in the village and the Saranac Lake Central School District to enact the same exemption.

“It’s intended to provide an incentive for a fixer-upper or a young family that wants to add an addition to their home,” he said. “You don’t need to move out of the village. Stay here and do it.”

Trustee Barbara Rice asked what the increase in assessment could be for a $50,000 upgrade to a home.

Tichenor said there’s no formula for determining the exemption and called that a “crystal ball question.” He noted that he’s only one of three assessors who cover the village.

“I don’t raise assessments for people putting paint or a new roof or windows – maintaining their homes,” he said. “If somebody put an addition on or guts a building, that’s a different thing. I’d take the finished product and compare it to similar sales. Cost does not equal market in most cases, so it might cost $50,000 or more to do it, but the increase in assessment may not equate to that. There’s no formula.”

The local law, if it’s approved by the board, would take effect Jan. 1. Asked when a homeowner would get the tax break, Tichenor said it wouldn’t apply until the year after the work is completed.

“Suppose you finished your house by March 1 of this upcoming year, and we changed your assessment. You wouldn’t see that reflected until your village tax bill until June of 2016.”

This exemption program was created by a 1993 state law. Asked what other municipalities in the area have enacted, Tichenor said he didn’t know of any. Van Cott said other communities around the state have done it. Mayor Clyde Rabideau said he believed Plattsburgh enacted it when he was that city’s mayor in the early 1990s.

The board has scheduled a public hearing on the local law at its next meeting, Sept. 8 at 5:30 p.m. in the village offices on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall.