While the summer months mean fewer meetings for some of the village’s boards and councils, the Board of Assessment Review’s work is just beginning.
The assessment roll for property values comes out June 1, which is the basis for taxes issued for the following April, July and September. Residents who take issue with their property assessment can file a complaint, which has to be accompanied by proof of value and other supporting documentation at the time of filing no later than Grievance Day. This year, residents had a window between June 1 and June 18 to file a grievance.
BAR chairman Tom Giordano, who is now serving his eighth year on the board, said the number of grievances last year was about 550, but this year, more than 600 grievances were filed.
“It’s not up too dramatically,” he said. “When there are revaluations in the past, there are thousands of grievances.”
Massachusetts-based J.F. Ryan Associates, Inc. conducted the last revaluation in 2016. That revaluation was the subject of scrutiny, as it produced, in many cases, different results from the property values based on the 2014 revaluation conducted by Texas-based Tyler Technologies.
Today, however, the Ryan revaluation can’t be blamed for the number of grievances filed.
Seven-year BAR member Bob Berg, who spoke as an individual not representing the BAR, said there are a few things happening that might lead residents to file grievances, one of which is the State and Local Tax deduction, which means taxpayers can deduct only $10,000 in SALT on their federal returns.
Berg also suggested taxes in the village continue to rise, which pushes residents to file a grievance.
“We can’t just blame SALT, we also have to look at the underlying problem, which is that taxes are too high in the village,” he said. “No one wants to live here. .. the tax burden is too high.”
He said there have been massive drops in property values, but the number of sales have gone up this year compared to last year.
Berg said the higher end market in the village has houses whose prices plummeted. Houses that were once $6 million fell to about $4 million.
“The lack of interest in the high end of the market is horrific,” Berg said.
Though there’s some involvement that goes into filing a grievance, Berg said the BAR wants to help people with their home values.
The BAR historically turned requests down because of a lack of evidence to back up a resident’s claim.
Sometimes conflicts of interest arise with grievances when a member of the board of trustees files a grievance on his or her property value. When that happens, as it did this year with Trustee Lena Crandall, the grievance goes before the town of Mamaroneck.
Berg and Giordano both said they saw an increase of evidence when residents went before the BAR this year.
“We’ve seen more real estate appraisals provided by taxpayers and their representatives,” Giordano said. That’s helpful. It takes longer to work through the grievances, but we appreciate people getting appraisals because it helps us do our job.”
He continued, and said people get their evidence from independent appraisers, which provides a detailed analysis of property sales at the valuation date, and identified differences between the house subject of a grievances and a sale similar to the property.
Berg said the board takes independent judgment seriously, and likes to see appraisals with evidence.
However, he said people have been afraid to do a tax grievance on their own because they may have been intimidated by the process. Berg said it’s a straightforward process.
“[Tax payers] can get advice from the assessor’s office or other residents,” Berg said. “Other people are too busy to do it, but it only takes 10 to 15 minutes to file it, and then they’d get an appraiser. There’s a large fee attached to hiring an independent appraiser, but the resident gets a great deal of evidence.”
Historically, the BAR denied residents’ claims, which led them to file with the Small Claims Assessment Review, because residents used tax services that didn’t provide real evidence.
With the additional information and evidence provided, the committee can come to an agreement with a potential new value for the house.
“In a lot of cases, [independent appraisers] have good determinations,” Berg said. “Some have made large adjustments. It’s good for residents that use them because they wouldn’t have to go before the SCAR.”
Now that the number of grievances is slowly rising, Berg, speaking as an individual, said it’s time for the village to conduct another revaluation.
“The valuations on the books aren’t valid anymore,” he said.
Giordano said the work for the BAR has progressed steadily, and members have met twice each week for a while before meeting once each week.
These meetings are expected to stretch into late August or early September.