Greenburgh Town Council Rejects Homestead Act Following Property Reassessment

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by Robert Kimmel

Condominium owners across the Town of Greenburgh, the villages of Irvington and Tarrytown included, had much to be relieved about following a work session by the Town Council in late February. The Council members rejected enacting the Homestead Act following Greenburgh’s recently completed property reassessment. Had the town voted to approve the Act, it could have meant steep property tax increases for most condominium owners.

Town Supervisor Paul Feiner had indicated earlier that he would have been “very surprised” if the Council members opted for the Homestead Act, which would have heavily altered the percentage of the town’s tax burden in aggregate paid by condo owners. The Homestead Act is designed to prevent a major shift of the property tax to the residential class of properties following a reassessment.

Condominiums will remain in a commercial tax category, whereby owners are assessed on the basis of the rental value of the complex rather than the market value of their property as a single-family home. Town Assessor Edye McCarthy informed the Council members there were approximately 5,000 condo properties in the town, and that 4,200 of them would have been re-classified. The Homestead Act would also have affected Co-op properties, placing them in another category.

All town property owners will begin to receive letters this month specifying their new, full market assessment value, and projected taxes, as well as their 2015 assessment and taxes for comparison. McCarthy pointed out property owners will have up to about six weeks to contact the company that performed the property reassessment, Tyler Technologies, to ask for a review of the assessment value. By June, Feiner noted owners would have to file formal grievances or certioraris to change their tax assessment.

McCarthy and Feiner met with many condo owner groups during the weeks prior to the work session to listen to their concerns, and in Feiner’s words, “to calm down residents.” Feiner noted he had received upwards of 300 messages from concerned condo owners. Condo owners pressed the point in letters and emails that they paid for lighting, road work, snow removal and refuse collection within their buildings or complexes, thus saving money for their municipalities.

Councilman Francis Sheehan informed The Hudson Independent that he had received, in the last month, “ …hundreds of letters and emails, regarding Homestead, all opposed to its adoption.”

At the work session, Council members were shown analysis charts displaying the percentage of changes in the tax burden different categories of tax payers would have in aggregate, if Homestead were enacted. Sheehan noted that, “Had the recently completed Tax Shift Analysis shown the reassessment produced a dramatic shift in the tax burden to residential property owners, as was expected, the decision would have been very difficult knowing there was so much opposition to Homestead.”

Sheehan stated that, “In reality, the decision was relatively easy because the tax shift to residential properties was less significant than anyone had initially predicted. Based on the analysis, it did not make sense to adopt Homestead, which would have provided a very modest aggregate decrease in the taxable value of residential class properties, (61.7% to 61.4%), while producing a 30% increase in the proportionate share of the aggregate tax burden (9.6% to 12.5%), for condominiums. The adoption of Homestead would definitely have had a dramatic impact on condominiums. For example, three percent of condominium owners will pay greater than $1,000 more in property taxes without Homestead. Had the Town Board adopted Homestead, that number would have increased to 61% of condominium owners, 15% of which would have paid greater than $5,000 more in property taxes, Sheehan related.
He explained that, “I, along with the other Town Board members, Supervisor Feiner and Councilmembers Diana Juettner, Kevin Morgan and Ken Jones, in consultation with Town Assessor Edye McCarthy and other professionals, unanimously concluded Homestead was not warranted. The data simply did not support Homestead.”

McCarthy told the Council members that the reassessment is expected to reduce considerably the annual number of grievances or certioraris the town faces requesting lower assessments on properties, along with ensuing tax cuts. She said the town pays owners $10 million in these tax refunds annually, and that the reassessment property valuations “…picked up approximately $1.3 billion dollars we did not have before the reassessment…a tremendous increase.” As for village taxes alone, Irvington follows assessment values and legislation set by the town, while Tarrytown’s Trustees would have had to vote on the Homestead measure.

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