As incumbent assessor Richard Caggiano took the oath of public office for the second time Jan. 4, a separate proceeding related to his personal assets was taking place on town grounds. Following a two-year foreclosure process, his home was being auctioned off at Town Hall.
Court records show the former Planning Board member and Southold Board of Education president and his wife owe more than $500,000 in principal and interest on a home loan after refinancing in 2010.
Mr. Caggiano, a former financial analyst for Suffolk County, said in an email that the lack of payments has “nothing to do with my position as assessor and was a result of circumstances beyond my control.”
After refinancing his home, Mr. Caggiano was later laid off from his job as a budget analyst with the county. He did not find full-time employment again until he was elected as an assessor in 2013, filling the seat left vacant by the retirement of Darline Duffy.
“When you lose two-thirds of your income, there’s no way you can pay your mortgage, get your kids through college and deal with other expenses,” he said. “It ain’t happening.”
There are no tax liens on the property, according to the Suffolk County Clerk’s Office.
Mr. Caggiano is one of three elected assessors in town. Their role, according to the town website, is to “prepare an assessment roll of all real property, vacant and improved, within the Town of Southold, establishing the condition, value and taxable status of each parcel of property.”
Court documents show that Mr. Caggiano and his wife, Susan, secured a 30-year home loan from Hudson City Savings Bank in 2008 for $464,700. An interest rate of 6.625 percent gave them a monthly payment of $2,975. Less than two years later, the couple sought a modification. The interest rate was knocked down to 5.875 percent, reducing their monthly cost to $2,754 for principal and interest.
The couple denied sufficient knowledge of the terms of the modification, according to court documents, saying Hudson City Savings Bank refused good faith negotiations regarding the note. A judge eventually ruled in favor of the bank.
The couple later sought bankruptcy relief, filing Chapter 7 in October 2010.
According to town tax rolls, the assessed value of their home has been reduced twice in the past decade. Between 2007 and 2008, the assessed value dropped from $8,900 to $7,800 — which resulted in a drop in taxes from $8,384 to $7,698. Five years later — before Mr. Caggiano took office — the assessed value was cut by another 23 percent to $6,000. The taxes then dropped to $6,667.
Long Island has been hit particularly hard by the mortgage crisis in the past decade, something the state comptroller’s office noted in an August report. Suffolk County led the state in 2015 in the percentage of housing units being foreclosed on. Statewide, 1.13 percent of all housing units were in foreclosure, while that number spiked to 2.82 percent in Suffolk County.
“The foreclosure problem has tended to hit hardest in areas where the housing market had ‘boomed’ in the years preceding the recession,” the comptroller’s report stated.
Mr. Caggiano said his foreclosure reflects that boom. While a future buyer of his home may end up paying less in taxes, “the home is overvalued today,” he said.
Town tax rolls list the home’s full market value at $545,455. Monday’s auction at Town Hall began with a starting bid of $450,000. No other bids were made, leaving the bank in possession of the home.
Caption: Assessor Richard Caggiano takes the oath of office on Jan. 4.