The assessment system in the Town of Sweden is a mess. It is not unusual for the assessed value of a house to differ from the appraised value or the sale price of that same property because they are calculated using different mathematical formulas. But in the Town of Sweden, the assessed values just don’t make any sense.
In a well-managed community, the difference between those values is consistent from property to property, especially when you compare similar properties in the same neighborhood. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the Town of Sweden, where the differences between the sale price of a property and the assessed value of that property are all over the place.
Being a tax assessor is like being a home plate umpire in a baseball game. Anybody who watches baseball can tell you that the strike zone according to the rules and the strike zone called by the home plate umpires are different. According to Major League Baseball’s rules for a pitch to be called a strike, the ball has to pass over home plate and it can’t be any lower than the batter’s knees or higher than the letters on the batter’s jersey when it crosses the plate.
But in actuality, the home plate umpire will often call a pitch a strike even though it was a little outside and didn’t quite cross over the plate. Or the umpire might call a pitch a strike even though it was slightly below the knees or slightly above the letters. That’s just the way it is.
But what is really important is that the home plate umpire is consistent throughout the game. If the umpire calls a pitch a strike in the first inning, even though it was a little outside, then the umpire has to call that same kind of pitch a strike in every other inning too.
The batters get used to it and they can understand the logic behind the home plate umpire’s call. The umpire calls it as he sees it, and that’s where the term came from. There is only a problem when the home plate umpire is not consistent calling balls and strikes.
The Town of Sweden’s assessor, Tony Eaffaldano, calls it as he sees it too when he assesses a property in the town. But he has not been consistent in how he assesses nearly identical properties, and that is a problem. Some people wind up paying more than their fair share of the property taxes, while other people wind up paying less than their fair share.
One Sweden resident, who lives outside the Village, compared the sale price to the assessed value of every house sold in the Town of Sweden in 2014, and the results wildly ueven. The difference between the sale price and the assessed value was more than $5,000 for 96 of the 123 homes, or 78% of the properties. The difference between the sale price and the assessed value was less than $5,000 for only 27 of the properties assessed properties, or 22% of the homes
If major league umpires were consistent on only 22% of their ball and strike calls, they would never get to work the playoffs or the World Series, and they would lose their jobs at the end of the baseball season. Maybe the same rules should apply to the Sweden Town Assessor.
In the 2014 comparison, the assessment of 64 of the homes (52.03%) was higher than the actual market value, and the assessment of 56 of the homes (45.53%) was lower than the actual market value. The assessed value matched the market value for only 3 homes (2.44%).
For the properties that were over-assessed, the average difference between the sale price and the assessed value was $17,655. For the properties that were under-assessed, the average difference between the sale price and the assessed value was -$25,580. But the range of the discrepancy was all over the place:
- 4 properties were over-assessed by more than $50,000
- 2 properties were over-assessed by more than $40,000
- 7 properties were over-assessed by more than $30,000
- 9 properties were over-assessed by more than $20,000
- 19 properties were over-assessed by more than $10,000
One of those properties belongs to a couple who had bought a house in the Sweden Village subdivision. They had moved into town from another county, and they were shocked when their tax bill arrived. They had just purchased the house for $150,000 but it was assessed at $193,000, which is $43,000 more than purchase price. Two things caught their attention immediately; the assessor had the lot size of their property wrong, and he had the house listed as having air conditioning when it did not. Needless to say, they got upset.
So they compared the sale price to the assessed value of two nearby houses similar to theirs and found some gross discrepancies in the assessed values of the properties. The house two doors down from theirs, which was the exact same size as their house, was assessed for $23,000 less than their house. Another house at the other end of their street was quite similar to their house, but it was assessed for $9,200 less than their house.
They filed an appeal of their assessment and their assessment was lowered, but not to anywhere near the sale price. Besides, they never should have had to file the appeal in the first place.
Another couple who live in the rural area of the town south of Route 31 had a similar experience. Their land was assessed at $3,800 an acre, but the land on the three properties adjoining theirs was assessed for much less. The property south of theirs was assessed at $2,000 an acre. The property east of theirs was assessed $1,800 an acre, and the property west of theirs was assessed $200 an acre. What is that all about? When you drive down the road all the land looks the same.
Crazy assessments like these are one reason why so many people are fed up with the current Sweden Town Council and are ready to throw them out of office in November election.
In 2008, the Major Leagues started using PITCHf/x cameras to track the trajectory and location of each pitch in real time and transmit that information instantly to broadcasters and Major League Baseball officials. Since then, home plate umpires have been calling balls and strikes a lot more consistently. Maybe it’s time for the Town of Sweden to learn a lesson from baseball and change the way does assessments.