Greenburgh Property Reassessment Triggers Many Residential Appeals
by Robert Kimmel
The after effects of Greenburgh’s recently completed property reassessment continue to resonate at the Town Hall with discontented property owners attending meetings there to appeal the new evaluations which translate to higher real estate taxes. At the same time, the Town is searching for ways to mitigate the burdens on property owners who will face hefty increases in their taxes.
Preliminary reassessment notices began to reach property owners by mid-March, and included projected tax information and how to proceed if they disagreed with the new evaluations on their property and the resulting taxes.
The taxes, if maintained, would be effective April 2017. The reassessment is designed to both appraise property fairly and to bring its evaluation to full market value.
Town Assessor Edye McCarthy estimated that by last month’s end, more than 1,700 property owners had sought informal sessions with representatives of Tyler Technologies, the company that performed the reassessment interviews, in order to secure a lower assessment. She indicated the number was not unusual considering that there were more than 28,000 properties reassessed in the town, including residential, condos and co-ops, commercial, and vacant land.
Of all the communities hit hardest by the reassessment, based on school districts, Irvington saw aggregate property evaluations for tax purposes increase by 18%. Tarrytown’s total assessments saw only an increase of less than half a percent, while neighboring Elmsford assessments dropped by almost 10 percent, according to a “Change in Reassessment” map posted by the Town. Dobbs Ferry was up 5.9%, while Hastings showed a 15.68% hike.
By category, the tax impact had 34 percent of “residential properties” in Greenburgh facing a tax hike, while 24% will have reductions, and for 42%, taxes will remain “approximately the same.” In a separate category, taxes for most condos and co-ops, 82%, will remain the same, 14% will have a tax reduction, and 3.4 % will see a tax increase. Almost half of commercial properties, 47%, will see no significant tax change, while 40% get a reduction, and 12% will see tax increases. Only 3% of vacant land will have a tax reduction; 59% stays much as it was, and a tax increase looms for 38%.
“We recognize that the new assessments, if not mitigated, could cause large numbers of residents in sections of town to be forced to sell their homes,” Town Supervisor Paul Feiner stated in a message. He noted that Irvington and Hastings, among others, “were hit hard. We also recognize that more than two-thirds of the Town will benefit from the reassessment – no tax hikes or tax reductions,” Feiner added. “All the Town Board members, Francis Sheehan, Diana Juettner, Ken Jones, Kevin Morgan and I – want to do the right thing for residents…and believe taxpayers should be treated fairly.” Feiner maintained that the reassessments, performed every five years, would curb “significant certiorari and residential small claims refunds” which cost the town up to $10 million a year.
“The town would consider all mitigation efforts,” Feiner explained to soften the tax increases from Greenburgh’s first reassessment in over 60 years. Following up on that pursuit, the Town Council held a work session in late March basically to discuss a five-year phase-in of the increases and decreases. Council members were joined by Assessor McCarthy, John Wolham, State Real Property Service Administrator for the Southern Region, and Thomas Donato, an assessment consultant.
Wolham told those attending that the 1982 New York law providing for the phase-in has never been used by any municipality. He cited legal issues that had not been tested before as one reason for its disuse. One significant factor is that state aid to the Town for the reassessment would be lost. Exemptions such as those for veterans, fire and ambulance volunteers, seniors, and the Star Exemption might be lost or reduced during a phase-in, McCarthy noted. McCarthy also later told The Hudson Independent that as much as 80 to 90 percent of the reassessment would be in effect during the first year of the phase-in.
A number of town residents voiced their disapproval of the reassessment results, including a harsh salvo of questions by Robert Bernstein, President of the Edgemont Community Council, who pushed for a reassessment several years ago. He was critical of the completed reassessment, said Edgemont residents had been overly assessed, and demanded to know exactly what criteria was used by Tyler in establishing evaluations. Bernstein charged that his own property was “grossly over assessed” and that he would file a grievance regardless of what the Board would do. He also pushed for the five-year phase-in to take place. Bernstein criticized the board, as did others, for not enacting the Homestead Act which would eliminate a special tax category for condos. The Board’s response was that it had found the tax shift would have little effect on the aggregate share of residential property taxes while placing a heavy burden on condo owners and possibly discourage developers.
One resident said he was a single parent, and with the increase in taxes he faced, he would have to sell his home. Another complained about the higher tax evaluation on vacant land she owned, which required no Town services, and sought reasons why she faced thousands of dollars in tax hikes. Donati explained that the land was evaluated by what it would bring in current market prices. A woman said that Tyler had improperly listed rooms in her house. And so it went for three hours.
Sheehan explained that this work session was to initiate discussions about the phase-in, consider mitigation actions, and collect as much information as possible before the public hearing on April 13 at the Town Hall. Feiner said that he had contacted “State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins and Assemblyman Tom Abinanti…to suggest that they consider introducing legislation that would to increase the amount of money senior citizens can earn to be eligible for tax breaks.” He called for the Town to increase the display of as much information as possible about the reassessment as well as procedures to appeal on the Town’s website.
McCarthy, who has participated in about 50 meetings with concerned residents, reminded everyone that the informal appeal procedure with Tyler can be requested up until April 8. The number to call is 800-273-8605 during business hours. A formal grievance can be filed with the town’s Board of Assessment from June 1 until June 21.
Tarrytown village taxes remain based on the prior assessment process, which uses a percentage of market value, Village Treasurer James Hart reaffirmed. Tarrytown Administrator Michael Blau said that there were no formal moves planned at this time to adopt the town’s reassessment figures as the basis for village taxes.