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Carlton’s new assessments include big jumps for ag land

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 April 2016 at 9:00 am
Sunset in Carlton

Photo by Tom Rivers – Beef cattle are pictured on Tuesday as the sun sets on Route 98 in Carlton.

CARLTON – The Town of Carlton mailed out nearly 2,400 letters with property assessments to landowners in mid-March. This was the first town-wide reassessment in six years, and the data shows big increases in farmland.

Town Assessor Gene Massey said those landowners shouldn’t be alarmed because the taxable value will likely go down to small increases when ag exemptions are factored in. He bases assessments on comparable sales, and he said farmland has been selling for high prices. The last two sales in Carlton include farmland at nearly $8,000 an acre and another one at $6,500 per acre.

Carlton was mired in controversy when it attempted a town-wide reassessment three years ago. Residents were outraged when some properties saw big increases, and others didn’t. Residents questioned the fairness of the town’s assessing.

The Town Board voted to freeze assessments at 2012 levels and not use the 2013 numbers, unless there was new construction and other property improvements.

Carlton hired a consultant, GAR Associates Inc., to visit every property in town and make note of swimming pools, additions, sheds, garages and exterior property improvements. Carlton also appointed Gene Massey the new assessor. He also works as Kendall’s assessor.

Massey said the reassessments show small changes for old-style homes, ranches and most other houses.

Overall, the town’s tax base grew 7.3 percent or by $14,089,207 (from $192,067,296 in 2015 to $206,156,503).

However, he said farmland has nearly doubled in assessed value. Poorer quality farmland with clay was assessed at $1,000 an acre in Carlton and Kendall last year, but the new assessments push the value to $1,600 in Kendall and $1,800 in Carlton. Higher quality soil, such as sandy loam, jumped in assessed value from $1,400 an acre in Carlton to $2,600.

One Carlton farmer, Robert VanWuyckhuyse, said his ag land increased 77 percent, or by $89,000, with the latest assessment. That will make it difficult for Lee Farms, a beef operation on Sawyer Road, to stay in business, he said.

VanWuyckhuyse said he has hired an attorney to contest the big hike in his assessment.

Carlton Town Board members declined to discuss the assessments in public on Tuesday. Town Supervisor Gayle Ashbery said residents should first meet with Massey for his rationale on their assessments. If they contest the valuation, they can file a grievance and go before the Board of Assessment Review on May 25.

Ashbery said she has heard few complaints about the new assessments.

“I am very confident in Gene’s work,” she said about Massey after the meeting on Tuesday.