by Barrett Seaman
Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner’s efforts to mitigate the political damage and financial pain caused by a town-wide property reassessment this spring produced at least some payoff in June.
Though some homeowners whose projected property taxes were bumped up by 30% or more in the initial valuations by Tyler Technologies won relief during the informal appeals phase in May, a majority of those who felt they were over-assessed were still not satisfied after learning in the first week of June the results of their meetings with Tyler representatives.
Some 750, many of whom had chosen not to meet with Tyler, signed up for a second phase of appeal through direct meetings with either Assessor Edye McCarthy or her deputy, Gary Link. Those meetings had to be completed by June 21, which was also the deadline for filing a formal grievance, to be heard by the Town’s independent Board of Assessment Review (BAR) during the summer months. According to the timeline set forth at the beginning of the process, all property assessments are to be set in stone as of September 15 and reflected in tax bills mailed out in the spring of 2017.
Judging by interviews with individuals who availed themselves of the opportunity to meet personally with the Assessor’s Office, as well as posts on the “Greenburgh Residents for Fair Taxation” page on Facebook, many appellants found relief from the town that they had not with Tyler. “Refreshingly reasonable, fair and rational” was a representative reaction to a meeting. Wrote Irvington resident Todd Jaeger: “In contrast to Tyler, the Town Assessors have a significantly better understanding of the local nuances of our real estate market and were also quite receptive to logical arguments.”
Feiner was also helped by the passage in Albany of a three-year phase-in bill that will allow qualified homeowners a delay of 66% of the tax increase in the first year and 33% in the second. By the end of June, the bill had gone to Governor Cuomo’s desk for review. He must sign it by July 9, after which Greenburgh Town Council must hold hearings and vote whether to implement it.
Feiner critics had predicted failure for the phase-in bill, some alluding to his inability last year to win a hotel tax. Yet not only did the phase-in win legislative approval, but Albany also passed the hotel tax that, according to Feiner, “will generate as much as a million dollars a year to unincorporated Greenburgh and significant revenues to villages that have hotels, helping us reduce property taxes.”
The Town Supervisor quickly credited Assemblyman Tom Abinanti and State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who shepherded both the phase-in and hotel tax bills.
These victories notwithstanding, thousands of homeowners are still fighting their reassessments and have filed grievances with the Board of Assessment Review (BAR). At an initial meeting of the BAR in late June in which five-and-a-half hours were set aside to hear live testimony from formal grievance filers, more than 50 applicants offered testimony, stretching the meeting out to seven hours and adding an additional time the following week to deal with the overflow. Many of those who testified at the hearing came from Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings and the Edgemont section of Scarsdale, those communities hardest hit in the reassessment.
One representative couple awaiting their turn before the BAR were Irvington’s Gareth Hall and Laura Bird, who bought their house off Riverview Road only last May—for $690,000. Yet Tyler pegged their home as worth $1.12 million in the first go-round, reducing it only to $858,900 after appeal—despite a bank appraisal of $700,00 and the actual selling price, which is supposed to be the best measure of a property’s worth. The pair did not schedule a meeting with the Assessor but instead filed a formal grievance that will be heard sometime in the summer. Gareth Hall’s assessment of Tyler Technologies was also representative: “They used algorithms,” he said, “but not a lot of common sense.”