After Scarsdale completed its revaluation, where homes were valued at 100% of their market value, the blended tax rate for schools, village, fire, county and sewer n 2015 was 2.24%, or a total of $22,400 a year in property taxes on a $1 million house.
But in Edgemont, where homes have just been valued at 100% of their market value, the blended tax rate for schools, town, county, fire and sewer in 2015 was 3.34%, or $33,400 on a $1 million house – a difference of $11,000 per year.
Prior to revaluation, because many $1 million homes in Edgemont were underassessed, the property taxes required to be paid on those homes was far less, thus making the difference in taxes between neighboring Scarsdale and Edgemont look much smaller than it really was.
Town officials are now aware of the huge difference in taxes, but have elected to keep quiet about it.
Town supervisor Paul Feiner broke the news to town officials in a confidential email dated March 20, 2016, in which he stated, “I just spoke to my brother in law who lives in Scarsdale formula (single family rate) is only 2.24%. I don’t understand why Edgemont has to be over 3% if Scarsdale can charge only 2.24%. We need to discuss at the work session.”
Town board work sessions are held on Tuesday mornings. But if the Town Board discussed the Edgemont tax burden in a work session, as Mr. Feiner asked them to do, they did so in secret.
A copy of the Feiner email, entitled “Edgemont Community Council report,” was sent to a local resident last night and they in turn forwarded the email to the ECC. Scarsdale’s blended rate is reported on its webpage.
Once realtors become aware of the huge disparity between taxes on comparably-priced homes in Scarsdale and Edgemont, it is possible that home prices in Edgemont will decline relative to prices in Scarsdale, which would hurt those in Edgemont who purchased more recently and paid top dollar for their homes, not knowing they were under-assessed and will now have to pay thousands of dollars more in property taxes next year.
In the meantime, Edgemont residents furious with the Town over how it has handled revaluation, both in terms of the problems many residents have had with the work performed by Tyler Technologies, that company that performed the “mass appraisals” and with the reluctance of town officials to adopt any of the state-prescribed mitigation measures that could ease the pain of the many Edgemont taxpayers who, as a result of revaluation, will now be required to pay thousands of dollars more in property taxes next year.
Many of these residents, some of whom are families with young children, or seniors on fixed incomes, report that they do not have that kind of disposable income to cover their new tax burden – which they never saw coming — and may now have to move out of the community or default on their taxes.
ECC president Bob Bernstein had suggested that the Town adopt a five-year phase in of the new assessments, which is authorized by state law. Mr. Feiner, who initially supported the idea, now says he is not inclined to support it because a state official told him that 90% of the impact would be felt in the first year of any such transition.
Mr. Bernstein said the arithmetic spelled out in the statute phases in only 20% of the increase or decrease in assessment in the first year. “All you do is take the difference between the adjusted assessed value for 2015 and the new assessed value for 2016, divided by 5, and add the result to the prior adjusted assessment. That’s a 20% increase. There is no way that results in 90% of the impact being absorbed in year 1,” Mr. Bernstein said.
“In addition, the five-year phase in gives the Town plenty of time to resolve the many complaint residents have about Tyler’s work not being accurate,” he added.
Mr. Feiner said he does not like that the five-year phase also phases in the assessments for those who were over-assessed who, he feels, because they have been subsidizing those who were under-assessed, should receive the benefits of reassessment without having to wait five years.
Mr. Bernstein said that, by law, any who is over-assessed, whether using the new transition assessment, or the new Tyler assessment, has a right to grieve their taxes by providing the market value of their homes is less than what the Town says it is.
For that reason, he says, there is no harm in transitioning the assessments, if you are over-assessed. If a large number of residents grieve their taxes, and are successful, the overall tax base will shrink in dollar value, which could increase the overall amount of taxes to be raised, although the actual tax levy (amount needed to be raised) will not change.
But Mr. Feiner and other town officials say they are worried that exemptions for veterans and others might be jeopardized if the assessments are phased in. Mr. Bernstein said, however, that the Town itself has discretion to determine how exemptions are applied when implementing a transition assessment and that Town officials are therefore creating a problem that doesn’t have to exist.
A public hearing on whether to adopt the transition assessment is scheduled at Town Hall for April 13, 2016.
In the meantime, Edgemont residents fed up with town government are once again considering whether to incorporate.
More than 30 residents attended a meeting of the ECC last night and several expressed support for incorporation. Several attending the meeting last night said petitions for incorporation would soon be circulating.
In order to get the measure on the ballot, signatures from at least 20% of the registered voters in Edgemont are required. A vote on incorporation is supposed to take place within 60 days after the town supervisor certifies that the required number of signatures has been submitted to the Town. The vote on incorporation is limited to Edgemont residents; if a majority vote yes, Edgemont would become Greenburgh’s seventh incorporated village, and be able to elect its own mayor and trustees who, in turn, would contract for municipal services..
After revaluation, Edgemont would be paying around $13.5 million in taxes to the Town to cover services provided to unincorporated Greenburgh. Many feel that the amount of money to be paid to the Town is now high enough to make self-government in Edgemont much more practical. Indeed, several last night suggested that Edgemont might end up paying even less in taxes for municipal services.
And at the same time, Edgemont would control its own zoning and planning, which would make Edgemont, incorporation supporters say, more economically sustainable over time than it would be if it remains a part of unincorporated Greenburgh, where Edgemont has no elected representatives of its own.