Rivertowns residents vented on social media last week after receiving letters about the assessed values of their homes, which were higher than expected. The letters were from Tyler Technologies, the firm hired by the Town of Greenburgh, which collects taxes for the villages and school districts.
Although some residents found that their homes are, in the assessor’s opinion, worth thousands more than two years ago, that doesn’t automatically mean a tax increase is coming.
In the world of assessments, everything is relative. A property’s taxes may even go down if the percentage increase for its assessed value is lower than the average increase for its market area.
The overall tax levy — the amount of tax collected from property owners to run the government or school system — may increase, decrease, or stay the same, depending on that entity’s operating budget. A property’s assessed value determines the property owner’s share of the tax levy.
“In 2016 the town board and village administrations committed to maintaining assessments at current market levels,” Greenburgh Town Assessor Edye McCartney told the Enterprise on April 19. “The ultimate goal in this reassessment project is to insure that taxpayers pay only their fair share of property taxes — no more, no less.”
The Town and Villages also committed to keeping their property assessments accurate, using a five-year cycle.
“We are now in the second cycle, and that is the reason for the 2021 assessment,” she said. “Some properties increased at a higher pace, due to market conditions. The assessments that property owners recently received are strictly a reflection of current market conditions.”
The assessors performed interim reassessments in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and residents received change notices from McCarthy, explaining that if their assessments were higher than the year before, that meant they had received a “market trend increase.” McCarthy noted that the process was suspended in 2020 because of the pandemic. But even though the pandemic is ongoing, the reassessment had to resume this year in order to not run afoul of state regulators.
The amounts shown on the letters should be considered preliminary assessments. There’s still more than a month for homeowners to get their assessments reviewed, and changed if errors are found.
Many residents expressed concerns about their assessments in local Facebook groups. One of them was author Doug Rushkoff of Hastings, who wrote in an email to the Enterprise on April 19 that he had asked a real estate agent what his house was worth. “All I can tell you is I got an assessment for a lot more than I could sell my house for,” Rushkoff said, adding that if somebody offers him what Tyler thinks his house is worth, “I can be out by tomorrow afternoon!”
Before 2016, it had been 60 years since all properties in Greenburgh were reassessed. McCarthy warned property owners back then that it would take years to ensure the accuracy of all the assessments. The assessment five years ago included interior inspections of between 60 and 70 percent of all homes, which was as many as Tyler representatives were allowed access to. During this reassessment cycle, Tyler tried to perform interior inspections where necessary.
“If the properties were considered outliers — for example, if a property is assessed at $500,000 and all the properties in the neighborhood are showing a million-dollar assessment — that’s considered an outlier, and vice versa,” McCarthy said. A physical inspection would also be likely if there is a recent building permit on file for the address. Otherwise, only the exterior would be viewed.
If there’s no interior inspection, how can a property’s current market value be calculated? First, sections of the town or village are sectioned into smaller market areas, in which all properties are within a single school district and within the same village or unincorporated area of the town. Then, the assessors use a CAMA — that’s short for “Computer Aided Mass Appraisal” — model, generating data on recent home sales in the specific market area for properties that, on paper, look comparable. It’s far from a foolproof process, and it’s important for owners to look at the reassessment notice to make sure the information is correct, such as square footage, number of rooms, age of the structure and any additions, and size of the lot.
“At this point, we implore taxpayers to review their assessments to insure the accuracy,” McCarthy said. “If a homeowner is of the opinion that the new 2021 assessment does not reflect the current market value, we recommend contacting Tyler [the contact information is in the letter they received] or, beginning mid-May, contacting the Assessor’s Office.”
She stressed that there is no need to retain the services of a “representative” at this time.
“A phone interview between the property owner and Tyler Technologies or the Assessment Department may be appropriate. There is no additional cost for that,” she said.
The deadline for calling Tyler to set up a meeting is Monday, April 26. Starting May 10, the assessor's office will meet with homeowners who were not able to meet with Tyler, only by appointment via telephone. Formal grievance applications will be accepted via mail, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by dropping them off in the lobby of Town Hall between June 1 and June 15 — not before, and not after. Application submitted afterward will not be reviewed.