Village home values drop as county sees meager growth overall

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 June 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – The most recent community-wide reassessment in the village of Albion cut almost $3 million in the village’s overall tax base, a 2 percent drop that was the biggest decline in the county.



2012 2013 change
Albion (town) $201.78 M $202.12 M +0.2 percent
Albion (village) $141.05 M $138.40 M -1.9 percent
Barre $85.86 M $88.38 M +2.9 percent
Carlton $190.09 M $191.35 M +0.7 percent
Clarendon $151.08 M $153.55 M +1.6 percent
Gaines $111.31 M $113.54 M +2.0 percent
Holley $51.91 M $52.47 M +1.1 percent
Kendall $152.09 M $151.93 M -0.1 percent
Lyndonville $28.90 M $28.55 M -1.2 percent
Medina $165.05 M $166.90 M +1.1 percent
Murray $174.51 M $177.88 M +1.9 percent
Ridgeway $219.82 M $220.98 M +0.5 percent
Shelby $177.71 M $181.90 M +2.4 percent
Yates $152.05 M $150.98 M -0.7 percent
County $1.612 B $1.629 B +1.0 percent
Source: Orleans County Real Property Tax Services

It’s time to launch a “Save The Villages” campaign, and in this case I mean the real villages of Orleans County – Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina.

The village neighborhoods in Orleans County are in trouble. The numbers paint a grim picture.

Every three years the towns in Orleans County reassess all properties. This generally results in a 5 to 8 percent growth in the tax base over three years, as prices are adjusted to reflect the market values, said Dawn Allen, the county’s real property tax service director.

I’ve been a reporter out here for 17 years now. The data came out last month and this is the first time I can recall a reassessment leading to a decline in the values for several of our communities. The villages, in particular, are suffering. Overall, the county grew about 1 percent.

All four had their housing values drop, with Albion showing a 1.9 percent drop or a decline of $2.65 million in overall property value. That shrinks the tax base for the property owners to pay for government services, likely pushing up the tax rate. The Village Board in April approved a budget that raised the tax rate 3.0 percent or 49 cents per $1,000 of assessed property. It increased from $16.37 to $16.86.

Lyndonville’s tax base is also down by 1.2 percent, a decline from $28.90 million to $28.55 million.

The other villages in Orleans – Holley and Medina – have witnessed shrinking values in recent years. Medina for example dropped $658,131 in an off reassessment year in 2012. Holley fell $653,185 for its most recent fiscal year.

The new reassessments, which go in effect for the villages’ budget for next year, actually show overall gains for Holley and Medina due to big properties coming on the tax rolls.

Medina Memorial Hospital sold Orchard Manor for $4.1 million, putting a tax exempt property back on the tax rolls. That helped Medina stave off a decline in latest reassment. It made up for a $2.15 million drop in the other values in Medina.

Holley also would have showed a negative number but the Holley Cold Storage was put back on the tax rolls at a $1,760,730 assessment. The company had been off the tax rolls and paying local governments in a payment in lieu of taxes plan.

Allen watches the real estate market in the villages with worry. She sees homes that used to sell for $60,000 to $80,000 sometimes go for $20,000.

She said denser populated areas, whether cities or villages, are struggling in other communities in upstate New York.

“All of the villages are in bad shape,” she said. “It’s not just Orleans County.”

She thinks the high taxes in the villages are a culprit in the assessment plunge. Medina Mayor Andrew Meier agrees. He has believes the tax structure unfairly punishes villages property owners, who are double and triple taxed for many services.

He advocates for consolidating the village of Medina into the towns of Ridgeway and Shelby, so there isn’t such a disparity in the tax rates between the village and residents who live in the country.

Village residents pay about $12 more per $1,000 in their combined tax rates, compared to residents outside the village in Shelby and Ridgeway. For an $85,000 house, that’s $1,000 more in taxes annually if you live in the village. It’s a similar phenomenon for village residents in Albion and Holley who pay far more in taxes than their country counterparts.

Meier has sought exemptions from the towns in highway plowing for village residents, who already pay for village taxes for plowing. The outside-village residents don’t pay towards Medina’s plowing, police, and other costs. Yet, the village residents pay in the village and then in the town.

Meier thinks the villages with police department should get a discount in their county taxes because they are sparing the county that expense.

He also said the county should change the way it shares sales tax and mortgage tax with the villages, in particular, so they have more money to offset property taxes. Otherwise, he fears the values will continue to fall in the villages, forcing the tax rate to go higher, which will only hasten the decline of those communities.

I’m solidly in Meier’s corner on this one, and I wish more village officials would sound the alarm. I’d like to see the town and county governments not be so stingy while the villages are drowning.

I live in the village of Albion. I think the DPW, police and other village government workers have done a fine job keeping this community together. But I don’t think it’s right the village bears nearly the full cost of Mount Albion Cemetery, the parks program and so many other services that are used by outside-village residents.

The county often complains about the state freezing reimbursements, but the county hasn’t increased the local sales tax share to the villages or towns in more than a decade. The county keeps more than 90 percent of the sales. Genesee County does a 50-50 split with its municipalities.

Orleans County has benefitted from a surge in sales tax in the past decade – mainly due to rising gas prices – and that has helped the county stay under the tax cap. But the villages don’t have the luxury of added sales tax. It can only raise taxes or cut services.

I’ll have more on this formula in another article, and I’ll try to make the case why it needs to be changed, why it’s imperative the county share a little more with the local municipalities.

The new reassessments show trouble signs in other communities as well. The lakefront communities, which people may perceive as being home to the most prosperous residents, are seeing declines in values. Kendall and Yates both dropped. Carlton froze its values after an uproar from the community over many properties with big increases. The town’s overall value did go up to reflect some building projects.

“The economy is affecting the lakefront towns,” Allen said. “There isn’t the demand for the second homes anymore.”