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Will Southampton�s ballooning property assessments destroy the town?


Two years ago, Southampton Town reassessed all properties for the first time in twelve years, more than doubling average assessed values townwide. Thousands took their anger to town hall; many won reductions. To avoid further sticker shock, residential properties were to be “updated” every year, starting this summer. Now the town is saying many homes have doubled in value again, after just two years. “This is going to change the town’s social structure,” says Joseph Prokop, an attorney representing homeowners against Southampton. “You’re having the taxes on a home be anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000.” Former Southampton Village mayor Joseph Romanosky Jr., whose own property taxes more than doubled in the past two years—to $7,800 on a $1.4 million home that he bought for $48,000 three decades ago—says, “It’s made it difficult for people who’ve lived here for many, many years to exist here anymore.” Already 8,905 grievances have been filed with the town. Stricken homeowners, including a widow in Noyac whose property rose eightfold in assessed value since 2004, have been calling James R. McLauchlen, a home appraiser, in tears, he says. To make matters worse, the town mailed assessment notices late, giving some residents no time to file a grievance, and failed to clarify a key point: If your home value went up less than the median increase, your taxes will actually go down. “The process broke down this year,” says Steve Kenny, a member of the town board. “We didn’t get notices out in time, didn’t explain it well. It created a lot of uncertainty in taxpayers, a lot of fear.”

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