Gazette Ceases Publication: Donates Archives to LHS


In 2010, the Larchmont Gazette ceased publication. In 2011 the publishers donated all contents to the Larchmont Historical Society, which will continue to make the Gazette archives available online.



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Losses in Property Tax Grievances Pushing Mam'k Into Reval

The Mamaroneck Town Council has now moved a step closer to community wide property tax revaluation and will be requesting proposals from firms doing this work, Mamaroneck Town Manager Stephen Altieri told a well attended public meeting at the high school library on Tuesday, November 17th. (See: Town Board to Start Hearings on Property Revaluation and Revaluation Still on the Radar.

Mr. Altieri reported the Council believes a full revaluation program is necessary because the present property assessing system is broken. He said that increasing applications for property tax reduction coupled with high legal defense costs deprived the government of badly needed income to pay for residential services and made it all but impossible to plan for future services.

Mr. Altieri’s comments followed a presentation by Lee Kyriacou, executive director of the New York State Office of Real Property Services, the agency that oversees local property tax administration. Mr. Kyriacou characterized the Mamaroneck tax process, based often on 35-year-old assessment figures, as unfair, impossible for many taxpayers to understand, expensive and inefficient.

He gave an example of local tax unfairness. A house on Barnard Road sold for $1,520,000, with an estimated tax of $28,430. A house on Briarcliff Road sold at a slightly higher price of $1,590,000. Its tax was much lower at $19,311.

Lee K, of the NY State , advocated reassessing all local properties.

Lee Kyriacou, of the NY State Office of Real Property Services, advocated reassessing all local properties.

Mamaroneck Town Manager Steve Altieri said property tax grievances had greatly expanded this year.

Mamaroneck Town Manager Steve Altieri said property tax grievances had greatly expanded this year.

807  Tax Grievances In 2009

The meeting, hosted jointly by the Larchmont-Mamaroneck League of Women Voters (LWV) and the Local Summit, was held to provide an examination of why there is growing local tax opposition. Nina Recio-Cuddy, co-president of the LWV, was the meeting chairman.

Mr. Altieri said that in 2003 some 232 residents filed for property tax reduction and 46 went on to small claims court in White Plains. The number of grievances has grown since then to 807 in 2009 with 343 going to adjudication in court.

“Some 60 –65% of our budget is funded by property taxes,” Mr. Altieri said. “We are losing revenues through grievance setbacks, and our tax appeal defense costs are going up. This past year we spent $409,000 in tax refunds and defense costs and believe this will go up to $465,000 next year.”

He continued, “The current Town budget provides no increases for services. But there will be a 2.4% increase in total taxes to be raised because of a loss of revenues and reduction in assessments.”

Schools Lost $1,800,000 From Tax Grievances

Assistant Superintendent Meryl Rubinstein said the school budgets are being impacted by tax grievances.

Assistant Superintendent Meryl Rubinstein said school budgets are being impacted by tax grievances.

Meryl Rubinstein, Mamaroneck Schools assistant superintendent for business operations, said that the schools lost $800,000 from tax grievances in 2007, $1.2 million in 2008 and $1.8 million this past year. She added that these shortfalls had to be funded out of operational budgets, which shortchanged educational programs.

Mr. Kyriacou said his agency wants to ensure that each property owner pays only his or her fair share of property taxes through regular updates of all property values in the community. He said Mamaroneck and some other communities in southern Westchester have failed on this test by relying on obsolete property valuations as the underpinning of their assessing system. As a result many over-assessed property owners subsidize under-assessed owners. This situation continues because it is impossible to build a process of regular, systematic re-testing of market values without reformulating the rest of the process.

Mr. Kyriacou’s remedy is community-wide reassessment or revaluation. This is a comprehensive review and updating of all property values in the community. Some 65% of localities in the state already have this. Most of these communities also reexamine properties each year to see they remain in parity.

Both Mr. Kyriacou and Mr. Altieri believe an extensive education program will have to be conducted prior to and during revaluation. Residents have to be made aware that taxes raised do not go up as a result of revaluation. The tax burden is just reapportioned—some will go up, some will go down and some will remain the same. But the total property tax raised will remain the same unless the Town decides to raise or lower its request for public tax funds, called the levy.

Revaluation Would Take 2.5 Years

Mr. Altieri said that a revaluation of the Town of Mamaroneck, the Village of Mamaroneck and the Village of Larchmont would cost about $1.5 to $2 million, or about $175 per property. Including public hearings and other educational efforts, it would take about 30 months for the revaluation to be completed.

Mr. Kyriacou said that the annual cost of property tax refunds in Westchester was $44 million annually against a one-time cost of county-wide revaluation of $20 – $30 million.

Resident’s Questions

Penny Oberg, a retired school college counselor asked, “What is the political fallout for a politician who recommends revaluation?” Mr. Kyriacou said he was a councilman in the city of Beacon when revaluation was proposed. Council members of both parties decided they would stick together and contribute to the program to educate the public. “The revaluation passed and none of us were voted out of office,” he said.

Margaret Shultz wanted to know the basis for valuing property. For residences, the prime measure is comparable recent selling prices, Mr. Kyriacou said. For commercial properties, it is income generated. Until recently, residential values and assessments were rising faster than commercial ones. That pattern is now reversed.

One audience member commented that municipal levies (moneys requested to run the government) were not going down while home market values had declined 10%.

A local real estate agent said she had just sold a house in Rye Neck for $625,000. It had an annual property tax bill of $23,000.

Ann McAndrews, Larchmont Village trustee, noted another burden on municipal finance was the New York State Retirement Fund’s recent demand for Larchmont to contribute $268,000 in additional funds in the next fiscal year for local employees’ pensions. Standing alone, this increase will require approximately a 2.3% tax rise.

One audience member asked what he and others could do to help revaluation occur. At this, the audience clapped in approval.

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2 comments to Property Tax Losses Pushing Mam’k Into Reval

  • Ned Benton

    PRESENT ASSESSMENT SYSTEM ABSOLUTE COLOSSAL FAILURE

    The Larchmonter-Times, December 1922

    So says William R. Bull to county government commission who are devising plan for new form of county government.

    Giving concrete instances in support of his opinions, William R. Bull of Port Chester declared last Wednesday, at a meeting of the county government commission at the White Plains courthouse, that the existing methods of assessing real estate in Westchester County are an absolute, colossal failure.

    Mr. Bull has been in the real estate business in Westchester for 35 years. Instances of palpably wrong assessed valuations as alleged by him follow:

    * A piece of waterfront property for which a lease has just been closed for a cash price of $100,000. It has been carried on the tax roll for years for $3500.
    * A residence assessed for $26,500. It was on the market for four years, that was sold a few weeks ago for $18,000.
    * A farm, assesed at $2,250, that was sold a few weeks ago for $18,000.

    “The fault in these cases,” said Mr. Bull, “is in the antiquated system.”

    The entire article is on the Gazette at:

    http://www.larchmontgazette.com/guide/history/1922/1922governmentc.html

    p.s. Nothing was done about the problem in 1922!

  • Jay

    Unless this is done countywide, the system will not be administered fairly. Why should we pay more taxes to the county, with new assessments, than folks in other communities? Look at New Rochelle, which decided against going this route.

    Since the pie will not get any bigger and there will be no net increase in revenues to the town, the only folks who will benefit are the appraisers, who will also get annual fees to update the rolls. Why take on this additional expense? Also, there is a BIG assumption that people will stop disputing their assessments.

    Will tax bills go down when home prices decline? I don’t think so…You can’t have it both ways.

    Also, there is no way that the costs will be $2,000,000. You should at least double that estimate! Also, how do you justify undertaking this significant expense that stands to benefit only a few people?