Longtime Flanders resident Carl Iacone argued that he could not afford anymore tax increases at a recent community meeting. JEN NEWMAN
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.
To see what’s new, click “Start the Tour” to take a tour.
We welcome your feedback. Please click the
“contact/advertise” link in the menu bar to email us.
One fine body…