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NEWSSTAND LOCATIONS

Irvington residents in sticker shock over revaluation

By Jackie Lupo

TIM LAMORTE/RIVERTOWNS ENTERPRISE

Spiro Park neighbors listen to Tanya Hunt during a meeting at the home of Mary Toomey (right) on April 2.

 

The second floor of the Irvington Senior Center wasn’t large enough to hold all the residents who showed up Tuesday night, April 5, for an explanation about why their tax assessments skyrocketed after last year’s town-wide reassessment.

Residents of the Town of Greenburgh pay county, town, village and school district taxes. For Irvington and Ardsley, Greenburgh performs the assessments for all four taxes. Dobbs Ferry and Hastings still handle their own assessments of village taxes.

The work performed by Tyler Technologies, the assessment contractor Greenburgh hired, resulted in reassessment at 100 percent of market value for all four types of taxes for Irvington, Ardsley, and unincorporated Greenburgh.

Village taxes account for about 20 percent of property total tax bills, with school taxes at 65 percent, county taxes at 13 percent and town taxes at 2 percent.

Ever since Irvington residents received notifications about their new assessments, it became clear that many increases were much higher than in other parts of Greenburgh. In their notification letters, some residents found factual errors Tyler made in describing their properties. Other residents were shocked that even though the factual information about their properties seemed correct, their taxes would be thousands of dollars higher.

Residents were confused, worried, and angry.

Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner explained that because Greenburgh hadn’t conducted a town-wide reassessment in 60 years, there were inequities in taxing properties of comparable market value. As a result, the Town was often sued by residents who felt their taxes were too high, a process called a “certiorari” proceeding. In those cases, the Town almost always lost, which resulted in refunds to property owners. “It was hard for the Town to anticipate revenues because of this,” he explained.

Feiner said that when the Town announced it would perform a revaluation, most residents agreed that it was only means to make everyone pay their fair share. As it turned out, “A little over two-thirds of residents’ taxes either went down or were not impacted,” he said.

But that’s not what happened in Irvington, where assessments went up more than 18 percent in the school district overall, 20 percent in the village proper, and even more in some sections of the village, where many assessments rose over 25 percent. In the Spiro Park neighborhood around Station Road, where quarter-acre lots and older houses well under 2,000 square feet in size are typical, some increases were staggering.

But even in this modest neighborhood, property is valuable these days.

Anne Valentzas of Station Road told the Enterprise her taxes could rise from $20,000 to $30,000. Dale Russell of Willow Street said his taxes could increase 83 percent. And Robin Rinaldi of Maple Street said the taxes on the house, where she has lived for 26 years, are projected to increase 300 percent, going up to almost $30,000.

“I don’t mind paying my fair share,” Rinaldi said. “What this means is there is no way I can stay and pay this amount of taxes.”

Many residents also found factual inaccuracies in the descriptions of their homes, and questioned the choice of the homes Tyler used as “comparables” to determine market value.

Greenburgh Town Assessor Edye McCarthy said the notifications residents received are preliminary and can be adjusted if there are inaccuracies.

The first step for those who dispute their reassessment is to set up a meeting with Tyler Technologies. The last day to call them at (800) 273-8605 for an appointment is today (April 8); the appointments will take place through May 7.

In early June, the corrected assessment roll will be published, and Tyler will notify individual homeowners if their assessments change.

If owners are still unsatisfied, they can set up a meeting with McCarthy between June 1-21. The town assessor can override Tyler’s figures if the owner can show cause.

June 21 is the deadline for property owners to file a formal grievance. If that proves unsuccessful, the final step would be to take the Town to Small Claims Court.

McCarthy said it is important for property owners to bring specific proof of their claims, such as a valuation from an independent appraiser or real estate agent. Owners can provide photographs of features (good or bad) of their homes, such as leaky roofs or basements, or 40-year-old kitchens.

If homeowners disagree with Tyler’s choice of comparables, they should identify properties they consider more applicable.

The assessors use many criteria to determine market value. Individual neighborhoods are taken into account, as are quiet streets vs. busy ones. The style (such as Colonial, ranch, Cape Cod, Tudor, etc.), age, physical condition, number of rooms, basements and attics (and whether or not those are “finished”) garage space, and outdoor amenities such as pools are considered. The assessor tries to identify actual sales of similar properties over a three-year period (Tyler used 2012-2014 in this revaluation).

McCarthy said the assessor must include fine points of land value, called “neighborhood delineations.” “What’s worth more,” McCarthy said. “Being on this side of Broadway or that side? This side of Main Street or that side?” In Irvington, two identical houses in different neighborhoods can have different market values.

Residents at the meeting urged the Town to soften the effect of the huge tax increases they will face beginning in 2017.

“After 60 years, you’re creating havoc by introducing this all at once,” said Michael Bradley of Spiro Park, who suggested a one-year moratorium on the increase to allow homeowners to adapt. But McCarthy said it would then be necessary for Tyler redo some of its work, costing the Town even more. A five-year phase-in had also been discussed, but rejected as not legally possible. Residents who had were overassessed, and who will pay less as a result of reassessment, are insisting that they’ve shouldered the burden of overtaxation long enough.

“We don’t want a mass exodus,” said Mayor Brian Smith. He and Feiner pledged to investigate other ways to mitigate the financial effect. But since the point of this reassessment was to tax everyone fairly, it will be hard for politicians to give a break to homeowners whom others perceive as having received a “free ride” on their taxes for years.


Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the Rivertowns Enterprise. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


 

April 8, 2016

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