City sues town over assessments

JOHNSTOWN – The city is suing the town to get assessments lowered on two watershed parcels at the city’s Christman Reservoir.

The city wants a $1 million reduction on one of the properties.

The city filed a notice of petition in state Supreme Court against town of Johnstown Assessor Katherine Oare, the town’s Board of Assessment Review and the town itself.

According to the lawsuit – filed Tuesday by Albany attorney Jonathan G. Schopf – the city seeks an assessment reduction on two city-owned watershed parcels in the town.

The parcels weren’t listed by name, but Oare on Wednesday identified them as the city’s Christman reservoir properties.

Court papers say the city wants the 2014 assessment of one its Christman parcels with a building on it lowered from about $1.98 million to $987,000. The city wants the assessment of the other parcel, which is vacant, lowered from $77,805 to about $30,000.

The city operates two sand filtration plants west of the city in the town. Raw water is obtained from three separate sources: Christman Reservoir, Cork Center and Larrabee Reservoir.

Oare said the legal action is the latest in a continuing matter going back to the city’s first legal action against the town in 2012. She said it appears litigation is “stalled” in state Supreme Court. Oare, who said she feels her full-market value assessment of the Christman properties is correct, is eager to get the legal matter resolved.

“They have every right to appeal their assessment,” Oare said. “Hopefully, something will be moving on this.”

Town Supervisor Nancy MacVean said two years ago that the properties in question at the Christman Reservoir last had an assessment review in 2004.

She said then that Oare adjusted one of the parcel’s value after she visited the watershed and found a building. With land added, the larger parcel’s assessment was raised. The other, smaller parcel’s assessment went down because of an error involving the wrong parcel, MacVean said.

City Mayor Michael Julius on Wednesday referred questions to City Attorney Brett Preston, who couldn’t be reached for comment.

According to the city’s notice of petition, the city went through the Grievance Day filing May 24 with the town. Court papers say the city contends the assessments are “erroneous by reason of overvaluation, and are unjust, excessive and/or unequal” for several reasons. The city says those reasons include not staying within the town’s 2014 state equalization rate of 77 percent.

The city’s legal action adds the city “will be required to pay taxes in a greater amount than if said assessments had been correctly and properly made.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.