Four residents of the “Mamaroneck Strip” attended a work session with the Mamaroneck Town Board on April 21 to continue their quest for tax relief. Also at the session was Lee Kyriacou, executive director of the New York State Office of Real Property Services (ORPS), and two members of his staff.
The strip is in the part of Mamaroneck adjacent to Scarsdale; residents use Scarsdale schools but receive municipal services from Mamaroneck Town.
Strip residents Michael Ludwig, Angela Manson, Robert Rifkin, and Richard Cohn explained that their neighborhoods include approximately 250 homes and pay, in the aggregate, approximately five percent of the entire Scarsdale school tax. They experienced a 12.4% increase in their Scarsdale school tax levy in 2008-2009 and face a similarly high increase for the forthcoming year.
Some strip residents are concerned that the increase is inequitable and a burden, particularly for those who are retired , have lost their jobs or are unable to sell their homes.The residents had previously solicited help from the Town board on April 1 and from Assemblyman George Latimer, who met with Mr. Kyriacou to discuss the issue on April 13.
Mr. Kyriacou explained that his job “is to get every parcel [of land] to full value.” In determining an equalization rate for a municipality, he looks at both book value and market value of properties in the municipality. The percentage difference between the two rates goes into calculating the equalization rate. If properties in parts of the municipality appreciate (or depreciate) at the same rate, there is no inequity for residents. However, if homes in Scarsdale depreciate more than those in Mamaroneck, this results in a proportionally higher assessed value for the houses in Mamaroneck and a correspondingly greater share of the Scarsdale school tax rate for the Mamaroneck homes in the Scarsdale school district.
What might be done? The residents are asking for a special equalization rate for their area for this year and going forward. They argued that application of the Mamaroneck equalization rate to their homes does not make sense since the value of their homes track the homes in Scarsdale. The Quaker Ridge section of Scarsdale, for example, has houses closer to the ages and sales prices of Strip houses. While they admitted that there have been fluctuations in their share of the Scarsdale school tax over the years, in some years to their benefit, they said their present rate of increase was unfairly burdensome.
While a special equalization rate might help, the area has no standing to ask for it. Only a municipality may challenge its own equalization rate.
Another option is to establish a separate segment rate for the strip, which would consider only values in the segment when formulating the relevant school tax. Such a rate is currently applied to approximately 12 communities in New York. A group of individuals may request a segment rate review, but the deadline for such a request was March 1. The strip residents argued that they learned of their school tax charges too late to request a review on time.
Nevertheless, the ORPS representatives counseled that requesting a segment rate might not solve the residents’ problems. To begin, the strip would be unlikely to qualify for the rate, as there must be at least a 10% difference in the levy. Further, a segment rate might result in a higher tax rate for the area.
Ultimately, the ORPS representatives agreed to conduct a pro forma evaluation and calculate probable values under a segmented rate. After reviewing the results, the residents can then determine how they would like to proceed.
In Mr. Kyriacou’s view, however, the best option is for strip residents to advocate for a reassessment of all properties in Mamaroneck.