County agrees to help towns in big assessment challenges

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 September 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – The owners of the Orchard Manor Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on Bates Road in Medina are contesting the assessment for the property, claiming it should be assessed at $410,000 and not $4.1 million.

Orleans County legislators agreed to contribute county dollars to fight tax assessment challenges where many thousands of dollars of tax revenue are at stake for municipalities.

The county will only get involved with properties assessed at $3 million or more, and if the owners are seeking at least a 10 percent reduction or more than $300,000 off the assessed value.

Towns handle assessing properties in Orleans County, and those values determine the taxes on the properties for villages, towns, county and schools. However, the towns have the smallest of the tax rates of the local municipalities. The towns also have the smallest budgets for defending an assessment challenge against more well-financed corporations.

The County Legislature voted to help with the tax challenges on Monday. The county is getting involved after two nursing home owners filed legal action to drastically reduce their assessments – and local property tax bills.

The owners of Orchard Manor in Medina are seeking the biggest reduction as a percentage. The 160-bed facility is assessed at $4.1 million – the sale price from 2012. The owners, Global Health Care, say the assessment should be $410,000.

Global Health pays about $225,500 in property taxes with a combined tax rate of about $55 per $1,000 of assessed property. Shelby has less than a tenth of the combined tax rates. The town rate is $3.48, with the county rate at $9.89, the village at $17.13 and the school district at $23.01. (There is also a library tax rate of $1.37.)

The county currently takes in $40,549 in taxes from Orchard Manor at the $4.1 million assessment. If Global Health is successful in reducing the assessment to $410,000, it would pay a tenth in taxes what it does now or $4,055 to the county.

The County Legislature made a stipulation that it would only participate in the tax challenges if the other municipalities also shared in the fight, with the amount to be spent to be based on the percentage of the municipalities’ tax rates. That would shift most of the financial burden for defending the assessment to the village and school district, which have the higher tax rates.

Shelby town officials have asked the village to join in the fight. The formula voted on by the county would make Shelby pay the least in defending the assessment.

The Village Board has discussed the issue behind closed doors because it is a legal issue. At least one board member questions if the village should join the tax fight because village residents already pay in their town taxes for assessing.

The village receives $70,233 in taxes from Orchard Manor, which pays a $17.13 tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property. If Orchard Manor’s assessment falls to $410,000, it would pay $7,023 in taxes, or more than $63,000 less to the village.

The former county-owned nursing home is now privately owned by Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC. The company paid $7.8 million on for the 120-bed Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center on Route 31 in Albion.

The property went on the tax rolls for the first time this year with a $6,618,900 assessment. Comprehensive is challenging that assessment, filing legal papers saying it should be valued at $2.5 million.

Albion Town Supervisor Matt Passarell said he and James Bell, the town attorney, have discussed the issue and will bring it to the full Town Board soon.