December 5, 2021

Cortland in midst of revaluating all city properties

Assessors are coming

Travis Dunn/Staff Reporter

These homes on Morningside Drive in Cortland will be among the first in the city to receive tax revaluation notices this week from assessor Brian Fitts.

The assessors are coming, and northeast Cortland, you’re first on their list.

The city is in the midst of revaluation, which means the entire city — and all the property in it — is being appraised for its value.

In doing that, Brian Fitts, the city’s tax assessor, will determine how to redistribute the tax’s burden so all property owners pay a fair share. It may turn out that one property owner’s assessment is too low, or another’s too high. The purpose of revaluation is to make sure that all assessments are as accurate as possible. It doesn’t mean your property tax bill will go up. Some will go up, some will go down, some will stay the same. Revaluation also does not change the total total tax levy the city raises; what it does do, however, is potentially change the share that each property owner pays. The city last went through this process in 2008.

Starting next week, Fitts and his staff will mail notices and questionnaires to residents of the northeast area of the city near Yaman Park — south of the Cortlandville line but north of Interstate 81. Every week thereafter, for the next five months, Fitts will target another area of the city and send out the same materials.

If you’re a residential property owner, here’s what you’ll get: a property description report on your property as well as a letter of explanation with a questionnaire on the back.

It’s in your interest, said Fitts, to read this information carefully, check the property description report, fill out the questionnaire and mail it back.

Without your input, Fitts will assess your property based on the data he has. If that data is not accurate, then you may not be happy with the assessment.

“Making sure we have accurate data is the first step in the process,” Fitts said. “Because if we’ve got garbage going in, we’re probably going to have garbage going out.”

Fitts recommends you check your property description report and make sure all the information is correct.

If there are any mistakes, indicate them on the form and add any additional comments necessary.

Then fill out the rest of the assessment and mail it in. Fitts also suggests providing your email address so that when his assistant comes to photograph your neighborhood, you’ll be promptly notified.

You don’t have to participate in the process, Fitts said, but you may not like what you get if you don’t.

“It’s like not voting,” he said.

After the tax map area is targeted for mailing, Fitts’ assistant, Caitlyn Brown, goes to work. Next week, she will drive through the targeted area — Kennedy Parkway, Locust Avenue and Morningside Drive, for instance — and photograph all the residences, while taking notes on her observations.

Neither she nor Fitts will go on any of the 4,000 residential properties, knock on any doors or enter any of the buildings, Fitts said.

This is just the first step in the city’s revaluation, which will be completed in 2021 or 2022.

Property owners Rodger and Martha Beck, who live at 22 Morningside Drive, said the revaluation was news to them.

“It will be interesting to see how it comes out,” Martha Beck said. “I don’t mind paying my fair share. But …”

“Be fair and realistic,” said Rodger, completing her thought.