3rd successful tax challenge against Rhinebeck assessments

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In the third successful large tax challenge in two years, Enterprise Farm North will be refunded nearly $50,000 by the Rhinebeck School District after the company’s property tax assessment by the Town of Rhinebeck was found to be too high.

The district will pay $49,721.12 in a lump sum to the 7.7 acre farm on 317 Enterprise Road from its certiorari reserve fund. The fund was set up for the purpose of refunding taxes when assessments are lowered.

The Enterprise Farm North case started in July 2011 and was re-filed New York State Supreme Court, in Dutchess County, July 2012; after the assessors’ decision to lower the assessment, the refund was approved by the school board at its Sept. 24 meeting.

The farm’s assessment was reduced from $2,521,100 to $850,000 for the 2011-12 school year and reduced again, to $800,000, for the 2012-13 school year.

The Rhinebeck Stop & Shop challenged its assessment in April 2012 and received a refund of nearly $154,000, which also came out of the reserve. Before the challenge the grocery store property was assessed at $9,247,100, which was reduced to $7 million for a tax of $107,271.

The Rhinebeck CVS also had its assessment reduced for the 2013 tax roll. They went from an assessed valued of $2,254,700 to $1,965,000, which now equals a tax of $88,000.

Tax challenges typically involve parties first approaching the Assessors Office and filing a tax grievance. If, during discussions with the assessor(s) they don’t receive the answer they were hoping for (lower assessment), then they can file a grievance in court, where they will have to prove the assessment is wrong through comparables and appraisals. Only after the suit is finished is the school district notified. The district is required to pay the refund within 60 days.

According to Assistant Superintendent Tom Burnell, the Enterprise refund leaves a balance of $35,782 in the certiorari reserve fund.

“We are still healthy as fund balances are concerned,” he said.

Burnell said the school goes through approximately 10 certiorari cases a year, but at this time, to his knowledge, there are no further cases pending.

But, he told the Observer, he worries that if there are more large refunds, the reserve fund could dry up, which he said would force the district to lay a new course.

“The board [of education] will have to decide whether to increase the reserve or to budget increased tax assessments [into next year’s budget],” he said.

According to Superintendent Joseph Phelan, a resolution that would add $200,000 to the refund reserve is expected to be on the Jan. 14 BOE meeting agenda.

The Town of Rhinebeck’s Assessor’s Office did not return calls for comment on the reassessment cases.

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