by Barrett Seaman
For Greenburgh Township homeowners facing significant tax increases because of the recent re-assessment, September 15 was a big day. It was the last day the Board of Assessment Review (BAR) would consider final appeals for those who believe their homes were over-assessed. It was also the deadline for applications for the three-year phase-in engineered by Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, passed by the State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor over the summer. Now the only relief left will be through small claims court.
Since the process began in March, when some 6,000 homeowners learned that Tyler Technologies had deemed that the assessed value of their home—hence their taxes—had increased (in some cases by over 100%), the number has been winnowed down somewhat through three phases of appeals. By mid-September, the BAR had heard 3,200 appeals. Final disposition of those cases will not be made public until November.
Whether they appealed to the BAR or not, there were still 3,761 properties with more than a 25% increase in assessed value by the 9/15 deadline, according to information provided by Feiner. Of those, only 1,061 (or 28%) applied for the phase-in relief package. The greatest number came from those districts hit hardest by assessed increases: Irvington, Hastings and the unincorporated districts, notably Edgemont.
How many of the phase-in applicants will actually get relief (paying only a third of the increase in 2017, two-thirds in 2018 and the full bill after that) will not be known until at least November as well. Among other criteria, applicants were asked to provide the town with a Certificate of Occupancy or its equivalent, be eligible for a STAR rebate, have no building code violations and be willing to allow an inspection.
Many applicants are troubled by the inspection clause of the phase-in criteria. While refusal to submit to an inspection during the original Tyler surveys seems an obvious justification, participants in the Greenburgh Residents for Fair Taxation forum on Facebook have expressed fears that a re-inspection could be used either to hike an assessed value even higher, or to lower it to just below the 25% threshold, making the property ineligible for the phase-in.
Asked to explain, Feiner, in an email message, quoted from a message Assessor Edye McCarthy had recently sent to a homeowner stating: “We would like to inspect the interior of your property for verification that the inventory is the same [as it was] prior to the reassessment.”
One forum participant, Leo J. McLaughlin III of Irvington, cited legal precedence that in New York State, a homeowner has no obligation to submit to an inspection for the purposes of assessment, including a tax appeal. Whether a refusal, legal or not, would have any bearing on a phase-in application is unclear.
What is clear is that until all the reductions and phase-ins have been accounted for, the actual tax rates homeowners will pay beginning next spring cannot be determined. The thousands of homes hit with higher assessed values should depress the overall tax rates but as Michael J. Bryant, a real estate agent and an attorney who has represented many local homeowners in their appeals, wrote recently to clients, “All homeowners will bear the burden of paying for the shortfall in tax dollars created by the Phase-In.”
So too will all homeowners pay for homes that, by various measures, remain under-assessed. Based on recent sales as compared to the public tax rolls, a significant number of properties in Irvington alone sold for a material premium above their assessed values, which won’t be adjusted upward until the next reassessment. For example, a home in Matthiessen Park pegged by Tyler at $1.6 million sold for $2.15 million. An Algonquin St. house on the rolls for $683,000 sold for $887,000. A Sycamore Lane home assessed at $841,000 sold for $999,000. Meanwhile, the assessed values of similar houses in these last two neighborhoods remain unchanged.
As of the last week in September, there were 25 single-family homes for sale in Irvington. Their owners, particularly those whose property is listed for over a million dollars, remain in limbo, as potential buyers wait—for a couple more months—to learn what their final taxes will be.