Local Reassessment Moves into Its Final Phase

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by Barrett Seaman

Passed by the state Legislature, signed into law by Governor Cuomo and adopted by the Greenburgh Town Council, the three-year phase-in for homeowners saddled with more than a 25% increase in their assessments is now in effect, both in Greenburgh’s 10 taxing districts and in Ossining as well. Those who are likely to qualify are concentrated in Irvington, Hastings and Edgemont.

Applications, available on the Greenburgh web site, must be submitted to the town assessor by September 15, the date by which all remaining grievances are due to be settled. Some 3,200 homeowners have filed grievances to the Board of Assessment Review (BAR), placing a substantial burden on that five-member body to resolve their cases in little more than six weeks.

Beyond having to meet the 25% threshold, applicants for phase-in relief must also qualify for the state’s STAR exemption program and have no outstanding building code violations or back taxes. The property in question must be their primary residence. If applicants meet all these criteria, they will pay only a third of their increase in the first year, two thirds in the second and the full increase in the third year and thereafter.

Those who are scheduled to receive reduced assessments will get the full amount immediately, as will those with projected increases of 25% or less.

Until all assessments are resolved, according to Assessor Edye McCarthy, it will not be possible to determine what the actual tax rates—or “MILL rates”—will be from one taxing district to the next.

The reassessment must ultimately be revenue-neutral, meaning that the various taxing entities—the town, village governments and school districts—will take in no more in aggregate taxes than they are scheduled to take in for the tax year. How much in taxes any given residence or business ends up paying depends on what that MILL rate will be.

Even before the final numbers are determined, however, communities hit with the highest assessment increases are already showing the effects. Irvington resident Catherine Johnson has researched the impact of “tax capitalization” on the market values of homes, citing economists who have studied the subject and finding local examples that confirm the theory that property tax increases will lead to lower selling prices—and vice versa.

Economists, she wrote on the “Greenburgh Residents for Fair Taxation” Facebook page, “define houses not just in terms of number of bedrooms, age, condition, etc., but in terms of price and mortgage as well. To an economist, property taxes are part of the house.” Physically identical houses, she argues, are different if their tax rates are different. “Buyers must pay (very) high prices for low taxes. … Economists take into account the total “economic burden” carried by the owner.”

“Thanks to Greenburgh,” she concluded, “Irvington residents living in the inner village, where taxes were quite low, comparatively speaking, must now bear a much higher economic burden than residents whose taxes were already high.”

Tyler Technologies and Greenburgh, she argued, should have anticipated that impact and adjusted for it.

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