It was supposed to be about tax fairness, with comparably priced homes throughout Greenburgh all valued for tax purposes based on their actual market value as of July 1, 2015.
But many feel the new preliminary property tax assessments, which have now been posted online on Greenburgh’s website, don’t appear to reflect actual market value at all, at least in Edgemont, leading some to think the process was neither fair nor honest. And as word about the posting of the reassessments spread over the weekend, Edgemont residents seemed to be getting angrier by the minute.
Indeed, upon seeing their own assessments go up substantially, while seeing comparably priced homes in their own neighborhoods have assessments differing in some cases by hundreds of thousands of dollars, with no apparent rhyme nor reason to it, several lawyers in Edgemont began speaking of the need to file a class action lawsuit against the Town and against Tyler Technologies, the company that received a multimillion dollar project to do the work, to stop what appear to be arbitrary assessments from going into effect.
Town officials meanwhile say there’s nothing to worry about, that anybody who doesn’t like their new assessed value can take it up with Tyler, and if Tyler won’t help them, they can grieve their taxes in June with everybody else. A flyer to that effect was posted on the Town’s website.
But it’s possible that Tyler will be flooded with so many phone calls, many residents won’t be able to get through. And it’s also possible that the Town is counting on the fact that some residents just won’t know they got snookered and wouldn’t know what to do even if they knew.
According to a powerpoint posted on the Town’s website, residents who want to contact Tyler must do so by April 8, 2016, by calling 1-800-273-8605. The results of any review by Tyler won’t be known until June 1, 2016 when the Town releases its final assessment role. At that point, residents have between June 1 and June 21 to file an appeal to the Town’s Board of Assessment Review in order to “grieve” their taxes, with June 21 being the Town’s official “grievance day.” If a resident fails to act within that time frame, they’ll be out of luck. The first day to contact Tyler, however, is not until March 15, and before calling residents must first receive their official notice in the mail from the Town of their proposed new reassessment.
“I spent hours on this, and trust me there are so many inequities, “ one Edgemont lawyer from the Fort Hill area said. “It doesn’t matter what street you live on, it doesn’t matter if you have updated and if you didn’t let anyone into your home and you did some upgrades,” she added.
Another resident, from Cotswold, expressed disappointment that his own assessment went up, saying “I was hoping that our assessment would have somehow gone down because of all the older Cotswold homes around me that have been under-assessed for years by a lot.”
The unfairness of the new tax assessments are perhaps best illustrated by certain of the reassessments on Old Colony Road in Greenridge, where there are seven almost identical contemporary homes in a row all built in 1964.
The new assessments among these homes range from a low of $711,000 for a four bedroom 3,000 square foot home with three and a half baths to a high of $956,000 for a five bedroom 2,400 square foot home with only two and a half baths. All of the properties on are identical sized lots.
Two of those homes that came in with assessments of $711,000 and $716,000, respectively, were recently sold for that amount – which means Tyler Technologies, which was paid several million dollars to do the town-wide assessment project didn’t have to do any work on those.
The homes with the highest assessments on that portion of Old Colony Road were homes that have not been sold for more than 20 years, leading some to think that rather than try to determine what a home’s actual market value was on July 1, 2015, which is what Tyler was supposed to do, Tyler instead applied a mathematical formula intended to mimic existing assessments, no mater how unfair those existing assessments may have been.
Regardless, the huge anomalies here, which reinforces tax unfairness rather than ending it, suggest at a minimum that no quality review was by done by Tyler Technologies or by the Town’s own tax assessor, Edye McCarthy, before the new assessments were released.
Even the list of so-called “comparables” on each assessment looks questionable. Thus none of the seven contemporary homes on Old Colony were compared with each other, even though they are all roughly comparable and any real estate appraiser would certainly have looked to the two recent sales, where the prices came in at $711,000 and $716,000, respectively, as indicative of market value.
Had that simple comparison been done, it would have been obvious that something very serious had gone wrong.
Thus, for example, in the case of the six virtually identical contemporary homes on that one street in Edgemont, none of the comparables compare any of these homes with each other. Indeed, one four-bedroom three and a half bath home was appraised at $936,000, while the four-bedroom three and a half bath home to its immediate left was appraised at $711,000 and a four-bedroom four and a half bath home to its immediate right was appraised at $716,000.
“All condos went down considerably, of course, but the inequities far surpass that,” the Edgemont lawyer said. “I’m absolutely disgusted.”
Not surprisingly, Town Supervisor Paul Feiner benefitted enormously from reval. Tyler reduced the assessed market value on his $710,000 condo in Boulder Ridge from $413,000 all the way down to $384,000.
He recently took steps to make sure the Town did not “opt in” to the Homestead Tax Option which, for purposes of tax fairness, seeks to tax condos the same as single family homes. Without Homestead, condos are valued as if they are rental properties and thus are assessed at a level far less than their actual market value.