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May 10, 2017 10:01 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Increased Property Assessments A Cause Of Concern For Some, Especially In Flanders And Southampton Village

Southampton Village resident Diane Orts-Deutschmann in front of her home that went up in valuation 46 percent this year. JEN NEWMAN
May 10, 2017 11:10 AM

Flanders resident Fran Cobb stood in the backyard of her small, gray two-story home on a quarter-acre lot. She looked around, threw her hands up in the air and pointed to a patch of lawn.

“There’s my pool,” she said, laughing as she gestured to the empty yard. “Do you see anything hiding here? There’s no pool.”

Although there is no pool in her backyard, she does have one, valued at $12,600, according to Southampton Town’s Geographic Information System—which explains why Southampton Town officials recently sent Ms. Cobb a letter to inform her that her Fern Avenue home of 15 years is now worth $269,300, a $28,400 increase from last year’s valuation.

Ms. Cobb, 58, is one of many residents in her neighborhood, Bay View Pines, and throughout Southampton Town who plan on grieving their home assessment, a practice that Southampton Town has offered annually since 2004. Homeowners may challenge their assessments on Grievance Day, which is Tuesday, May 16.

It could be a busy one this year: Property owners in several communities, including Flanders and Southampton Village, have complained of escalating assessments on their properties, and plan to use the grievance process to challenge them.

Ms. Cobb, a custodian and single mother of three, one of whom still lives at home, said she can’t afford the impact on her tax bill resulting from the assessment increase, adding that she works four jobs just to keep up on her payments—and will have to take a vacation day from three of them to show up next Tuesday on Grievance Day. But she said she certainly will.

“I’m not having anyone take my house away,” she said. “They’re not taking my home because of taxes.”

According to Southampton Town Tax Assessor Lisa Goree, a number of factors can contribute to an increase in a home’s tax assessment—such as a physical property change due to new construction or demolition, misinformation that the town has about the home, the increasing market value of neighboring homes, or other external factors.

Flanders residents saw an overall 10 to 15 percent increase in their valuations this year, Ms. Goree said—a large portion of which were located in the Bay View Pines neighborhood. The tax assessor attributed this fact to an increase in home sales at higher values in the northwest portion of Southampton Town.

She quickly noted at a recent Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association meeting that although some residents have received a higher assessment, that does not automatically mean that their taxes will increase. That, she said, would depend on the tax rate and any school budget change.

However, the mentality among many residents in the Flanders and Riverside area, who largely pay into Riverhead School District taxes, is that they have been hit twice: once with the increase in home valuations, and again with a proposed $136.4 million budget for the Riverhead school budget, which, if approved, would mean a 4.38-percent increase in spending and would raise the property tax levy by 3.77 percent.

Flanders resident Carl Iacone expressed that sentiment at the May 8 FRNCA meeting, pulling out the empty pockets of his sweatpants while addressing Ms. Goree and a crowd of approximately 40 people. He gestured to his inside-out pockets and loudly declared that he did not have any more money to give in taxes.

“I’m tired of being a cash cow, and I refuse to be intimidated by the board and the Town of Southampton,” he said. “... I’m going to put up a fight this time. If I’ve got to go to Supreme Court, I’m going to go to Supreme Court.”

Southampton Village resident Diane Orts-Deutschmann, who has lived in her red 2,300-square-foot Cape Cod-style home on Lewis Street for 79 years, said her assessed home value has gone up 46 percent this year—from $1,689,400 to $2,534,000. In her case, she also has seen an impact on her property tax bill from the higher assessment, which jumped from $5,405 last year to $7,874 this year.

“Everybody I’ve told, they just can’t believe it,” she said. “Not since 1994 have I done changes. I haven’t done a thing.

“I just don’t think it’s right to have this happen for those of us who have lived in the village, and have lived here for 79 years,” Ms. Orts-Deutschmann continued. “I’ve served on the [Village Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation], I’ve baked brownies—I’ve done everything. I tell them they’re forcing me out.”

Although she has not done any physical improvements to her property, homes near her were recently sold for higher prices, likely leading to her increase. Regardless, Ms. Orts-Deutschmann plans on grieving the increased valuation, a process that can either give a reduced home valuation, or, at worst, no change. Applying does not put homeowners at risk of an increase, Ms. Goree explained on Monday.

Other Southampton Village residents are likely in the same situation. Last month, Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley suggested to the Village Board that a letter be sent to the Town Board expressing their concern on the reassessments, suggesting that the potential tax impact could push locals out of the area. It is unclear whether the letter was ever sent, as Mr. Epley could not immediately be reached for comment.

Not everyone is against their new valuations. FRNCA President and Flanders resident Ronald Fisher noted that although his assessment went up $23,000, it meant that he no longer was required to purchase mortgage insurance. He estimated that the increased valuation would cost him around $63 more in his tax bill—but ultimately save him $420 annually on the insurance.

“I think, in general, anytime taxes go up, the knee-jerk reaction is to be upset about it,” Mr. Fisher said. “Personally, I was reassessed, and the reevaluation matches almost to the dollar to what my recent appraisal was. For me, it’s nice. Now I no longer have to have mortgage insurance, and I have more equity in my home.”

An overall theme of many of the residents voicing concerns about their assessed values was a lack of information conveyed along with an increase. The letter from the town that informs homeowners of a change in their property valuation gives the previous year’s assessment and the current value for the structures and the land. It does not provide any further reasoning for why a change was made; to find that out, residents must contact the town’s assessor’s office.

For part-time Flanders resident and single mother Amy Kaufmann, 46, who purchased her home last July, it is hard to find the time to reach out to the town, as she has a job and is taking college classes. She said she wished there was a statewide guideline for calculating the valuation, or at least a better way to inform the public on how decisions were made.

“The letter shows the valuation but does not show how much your taxes will be impacted,” she said. “What I find to be hard is that each municipality does it a little different, and there’s no set guideline.”

Southampton Town’s Grievance Day is scheduled for Tuesday, May 16, at St. Rosalie’s church in Hampton Bays. Residents may submit their applications in person from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 2 to 4 p.m., and 6 to 8 p.m.

Alternatively, grievance applications may be submitted online, by May 16 at 4 p.m., or in person in Southampton Town Hall any day on or before May 16. The application itself can be found on the town’s website, southamptontownny.gov.

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This Town needs to think less about building subsidized housing and more about lowering property taxes so that current residents can afford to stay. How about negotiating healthcare for all employees in a group to gain leverage with insurers and the hospital. That's town admin, police and teachers from all school zones, all in one group.
By dfree (810), hampton bays on May 10, 17 8:35 PM
Riverhead taxes are outrageous.

Sure, it's a bit more affordable, but it's literally one step short of "Crookhaven".
By Mr. Z (11693), North Sea on May 10, 17 10:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Hamptons are losing 1% of its local families every year because of this.
Ask most who remain and their goal is to leave.
By even flow (994), East Hampton on May 11, 17 5:47 AM
We arent losing 1% due to taxes, the 1% are leaving as our homes are being purchased by wealthier second home buyers who can pay more, driving up housing prices, unless the 1% is Riverhead. Riverhead gives huge tax breaks to any commercial building and alot of properties on 58, pay little or no taxes. Walmart supercenter is new, as the tax abatement on the old Walmart ran out. It pays to move. So where do the taxes come to run the government? The residential property owner. Retirees are buying in ...more
By North Sea Citizen (564), North Sea on May 11, 17 6:13 AM
In 15 years it will be nothing but second homes for the rich city folk. The ranches will be torn down to put up modern larger homes. The remaining local families who aren't teachers, doctors, lawyers, police and their kids are grown and off to college/life will sellout these homes to again the rich city folk. The remaining "bad" neighborhoods or less desirable locations remaining will be for the overcrowded labor force still willing to live "multi-family". It's kind of like cannibalization effect. ...more
By lirider (288), Hampton Bays on May 11, 17 6:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
School taxes are closer to 70% of the tax bill—yet everyone storms Town Hall to rail about government services raising their taxes?

Meanwhile—follow a school bus in Hampton Bays around 3:30 p.m. and watch them discharge 15 kids at $23,000 per kid at one of the numerous illegal motel conversions. Illegal housing is sending school taxes through the roof!

Meanwhile, code enforcement, who was supposed to target this illegal housing, is nailing people for having too many ...more
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on May 11, 17 6:29 AM
1 member liked this comment
That's too low. Try over $30k per student. That means SH Schools run about $650,000 per class at roughly 22 students.

Let that one soak in for a moment
By even flow (994), East Hampton on May 11, 17 6:43 AM
Along the school tax burden..we have 69 school districts in Suffolk County. That means , 69 Superintendents, administrators,purchasing offices etc... We should only possibly have four (Eastern,Western, Northern, Southern) or you can even make a case or one (Suffolk County)like other parts of the country do. Problem is, talk to the teachers union, they will never allow it. Fleecing of the taxpayer continues...sad. Run off this Island. It is their goal to bankrupt us.
By The Real World (368), southampton on May 11, 17 7:28 AM
Southampton Code Enforcement officers troll AirBnB to find and fine homeowners renting to rich yuppies from NYC in the summer in order to pay exorbitant property tax so that illegal undocumented residents can get free schooling and local law enforcement can have gold ated health insurance and pensions. I had one such undocumented resident tell me he switched from Hampton Bays Middle School to Southampton High School because the taxpayers in HB weren't paying enough.

Meanwhile, the local ...more
By dfree (810), hampton bays on May 11, 17 8:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
Aging Hipster, couldn't agree more. Not cool about the boars - but it makes it look like that is the biggest code violation in HB. The Town doesn't address any real problem...3 members of the Board are up for re-election - 2 of the 3 "J"s that promised us the world and instead they spent million of dollars on an attractive nuisance with no comfort stations called Good Ground Park, spend thousand of dollars on "studies", left the Ponqogue Pavilion and Old Ponquogue Bridge looking like Conley Island ...more
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on May 11, 17 8:43 AM
I think it's Funny! Giving 300k to a school superintendents for wrong doing. Suspending employees with pay, pensions, and other benefits is going to raise your taxes. Funny stuff
By chief1 (2790), southampton on May 11, 17 10:11 AM
Like some of you I have to say a lot of it is the schools. The administrator and teacher salaries are out of control. How does a gym teacher make over $100,000 with full benefits and 7 actual months of work? The only town employees making over $80,000 are secretaries for the supervisors office or other administrative non-union employees. Guys like Kratoville who makes well over $100,000 for doing absolutely nothing except cater to the Town Board's wishes and you can see the bloat. The middle ...more
By lirider (288), Hampton Bays on May 11, 17 10:47 AM
ESM Taxes in western Southampton are out of control. Highest school tax rate in the Town!
By Mouthampton (437), Southampton on May 11, 17 10:51 AM
Isn't the Town of Southampton at 100% market value meaning their assessments are very close to what the market value is throughout the Town of Southampton...

The real estate market is booming right now and this goes for all hamlets including Hampton Bays and Flanders, what do the people expect? Obviously no one wants to pay taxes especially if you have no children in the schools but that just how the government works, no one is singled out and usually everyone in the area gets an increase/decrease ...more
By tranquility1985 (25), Hampton Bays on May 12, 17 10:48 AM
1 member liked this comment
Tranquility, the problem is, the system is flawed. 90% of school budgets are uncontrollable. 69 School districts in Suffolk alone. It is set up where the tax burden can never decrease. Budgets never go down. It is all relative in a sense that a pizza pie is a pizza pie whether it is sliced 8 times or 16, the same amount is there. If assessments go down, the rates must go up to fund the underlying district. Look at all the underlying districts on your next bill, ambulance, 911, library etc...need ...more
By The Real World (368), southampton on May 12, 17 3:07 PM
The Town does value at 100% market value, however they do not do this year over year. To many people complained so they revalue every 3 years or so. The Town budget actually hasn't moved much, but the schools districts have. That's were the movement is. Ive watched Southampton school budget votes and the number of people who actually vote, vs population is almost non existent. That said in the Southampton School district outside of the Villages, our taxes are very low as we have many people paying ...more
By North Sea Citizen (564), North Sea on May 15, 17 6:47 AM
For what Southampton residents pay in taxes there should be servants on every street corner in white gloves and Bermuda shorts handing out cucumber water. But no, you get some Christmas decorations and a free beach sticker.
By even flow (994), East Hampton on May 15, 17 7:23 AM
1 member liked this comment
From what I read here most of the comments seem to come from non-locals. I mean folks whose family is living and working 24/7/365 here on the East End. Some of the comments would be valued if all the writers had those qualifications.
When SH was founded in 1640 the Founders stipulated that anyone desiring to settle here MUST have a useful trade, prove he had enough financial backing to last three years and he and his family signed that they would live here for those three years. It's in the ...more
By summertimegal (93), southampton on May 20, 17 9:05 AM
I've lived here 20 years and watched my taxes increase x5 and i didn't even send my child to the schools here and get raped every one of those 20.years from a town where I have to bring.my own trash to the dump.

let's call it for.what it is theft. over 80% of the school tax goes to teacher salaries and pensions for people who teach students that continuously score in the bottom of the basic skills tests and ask for an increase every year. if they worked in the private sector they would ...more
By smannoia (3), Hampton bays on May 15, 18 3:10 PM