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Cass Action Lawsuits?

Dear Editor,

Southampton, like a great number of communities across the nation, is moving to full value real property assessment. The rationale for 100% market value assessment is equitable distribution of the tax burden to all property owners. Based on the situation described below, Southampton's transition to full value assessment and the establishment of the accompanying tax rate is being grossly mismanaged. It appears that these dependent actions have been taken without concern for their net effect. The result is confiscatory taxation, likely to cause many residents to lose their homes. This is unconscionable, especially for a town founded by pre-revolutionary settlers.

On a personal level, my parents' property tax will increase by 123% based on the 2006/2007 re-assessment and tax rate. They are elderly (88 years old), on a limited income and have been living in their modest 1000 sq. ft. Remsenburg home, supporting the community and paying their taxes for 41 years. They and many other Southampton township residents cannot support the pending tax increase without debilitating financial consequences.

We have filed a grievance. However, the standard grievance process is not an applicable remedy for the current situation. This is not an isolated case or a small number of erroneous assessments. It appears rather to be a failure by state and local governments to properly apply the assessment/taxation process in the best interests of the governed.

The situation I described above is wide spread and is spawning petitions as well as individual and class action lawsuits. Responding to and dispositioning those actions will increase the financial burden that the Southampton government is trying to mitigate.

A great number of communities across the nation have chosen a phased approach to 100% market value assessment. Typically in those locales property is not reassessed until it is sold (unquestionably establishing true market value), and annual real estate tax increases are capped, usually at 3% to 5%. This provides constraint on government spending and does not financially burden current residents. It allows the tax rate to be adjusted gradually over time as the Level of Assessment (LOA) approaches 100%. Unfortunately, current NY State law does not allow the aforementioned approach. I do not believe that New York's or Southampton's government is staffed by uninformed, unconcerned, incomplete individuals. Therefore, it is inconceivable that the destabilizing impact of the current reassessment and tax levy approach was not foreseen by our representatives and government agency officials.

According to the New York State Office of Real Property Services (NYSORPS), what is happening in Southampton is or will be happening throughout Long Island and the rest of New York State. New York State's local property taxes are nearly 50% above the national average and are near the highest in the nation per capita. In Suffolk County property taxes are nearly 73% above the national average. If we do not all band together and tell our state and local representatives that "we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore," we will be forced to leave Long Island and NY like many of our neighbors have already done.

I urge you to look into this matter and use the power of the press to rally the public to stop the confiscation of our homes through taxes. I look forward, with confidence and faith in the media and our government, to a sensible and equitable resolution of this extremely alarming issue.

July 11, 2006

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