By Barrett Seaman–
The envelope appears in the mail, bearing the telltale logo of Tyler Technologies, the company used by the Town of Greenburgh to calculate property values that will in turn determine your annual property tax bill.
“Preliminary Tentative 2021 Change of Assessment,” reads the headline on the first page of the letter inside. For those who experienced the trauma of the property tax reassessment conducted by Tyler in 2016, there is an air of inevitability about the three numbers on the second page of the letter—the ones indicating what your property was assessed at last year, what Tyler thinks the property is worth this year and the difference between them.
Spoiler alert (in case you haven’t opened your Tyler Technologies envelope yet): the difference between your 2020 number and the 2021 number probably won’t be ridiculously high—that is, unless you re-did your kitchen, finished the basement or put in a pool during the last 12 months. But it’s not likely to be insignificant either. Tarrytown’s average increase is 10.9%; Dobbs Ferry is 8.4%. Irvington did best (as in least), with only a 2.3% rise.
For Irvington, where the assessed valuations went up 18% that year, 2016 was a real sticker-shocker. The reassessment done then was the first since 1956, and a lot of value had accumulated over those decades. Some of the older, larger homes, there and elsewhere in the rivertowns, saw their valuations—and subsequently their property taxes—more than double. For Greenburgh as a whole, some 3,200 homes saw increases of 25% or more.
Many homeowners were then and remain now skeptical of Tyler’s method of evaluating properties. Significantly, however, New York State’s Department of Taxation seems to like the way Tyler does it.
According to Greenburgh Assessor Edye McCarthy, the state gave the Town a grade of 100% on how it went about its reassessment. Calculations are based not only on analysis of the housing market in the area but also on on-site inspections by Tyler agents. Everything is taken into account, including the market reputation of the neighborhood and whether or not one has a view of the Hudson River. During the six months following the 2016 cycle in which homeowners could challenge their assessments, 3,200 tried, 535 were granted some level of reduction by the Assessor’s Office, while another 237 had to go to the Board of Assessment Review for their relief. All the rest, more than 2,400, struck out.
Since then, by state law, re-assessments are done every year, with Tyler agents inspecting as many houses as possible, checking permit records and factoring in sales trends in the taxable area (e.g. village, school district). Last year, with the pandemic, revaluations were based strictly on market trends, but this year, Tyler agents were back out inspecting properties.
With the increased frequency, the odds of successfully challenging Tyler’s re-assessments go down even further. Last year, 823 homeowners filed grievances, of which 65% got zero relief for their efforts.
Still, there is a process, and in the wake of mailing out those “preliminary, tentative” numbers, Assessor McCarthy is making the rounds of village trustee meetings to explain, once again, how the system works. On Monday, the 19th, for example, she made a Zoom call appearance at Tarrytown’s Board of Trustees regular meeting and plans to do other villages in the weeks ahead. Those who log onto the Greenburgh Town web site (www.greenburghny.com) can watch her 10-minute video at their convenience.
Here’s how it works from here:
If you think Tyler and Greenburgh are overestimating what you think you could get for your house on the market, your first step is to call Tyler at 914-231-8250 and set up a remote (phone) review. They’ll think about it and get back to you.
When they do—and if the news is bad, you can then turn to Ms. McCarthy and her staff in the Assessor’s Office at any time until the second week in June.
If you’re still striking out, your last resort is to file a formal grievance with the Town’s Board of Assessment Review (BAR), made up of other Greenburgh citizens.
There is yet another avenue to relief, through the court system, but to win there, you’ll have to convince a judge that the system itself is flawed. Given that the state has already given Greenburgh and Tyler a perfect 100% grade on its methodology, that’s not likely.
In the end, odds are that Greenburgh will use these valuations to determine the tax rates. While simple math suggests higher home values will lead to higher taxes, it’s not a one-to-one calculation. “Reassessment is a zero-sum game,” McCarthy reminds her audiences, “in that taxing authorities do not get any more money, even if aggregate property values increase.” Higher aggregate valuations, such as the rivertowns are seeing in Tyler’s preliminary notices, should lead to lower tax rates. Exactly how that translates into tax bills will be revealed starting roughly a year from now, when the first of several 2022-23 Town, County and School tax bills start arriving in the mail