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Residents React to Tax Revaluation in Scarsdale

45CushmanRoadThe results of Scarsdale's first tax revaluation since 1969 have been released and residents are busy evaluating their new assessments. Some are breathing sighs of relief while others are vowing to pack-up and put their homes on the market. As predicted, anecdotal data shows that homeowners on large lot sizes are seeing the most dramatic increases in their taxes, ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 per year with some going up by as much as $100,000 per year.

For most, the changes are not as dramatic, varying by a few thousand dollars in either direction. On a cumulative basis it appears that the steep increases to homeowners on larger lots have funded decreases to the owners of more modest homes.

The mailers that were sent to homeowners show the new assessed value of the home and what real estate taxes would have been in 2013 based on this new assessment. However, 2014 tax bills will be based on the old assessments. The best way to calculate real estate taxes in 2015, the first year the new assessments will be in effect, is to multiply the new assessed value by a factor of .02241%.

Village Assessor Nanette Albanese explained why the mailers and the 2015 projections don't match up. She said, "Because of the limitations of the NYS assessment disclosure system, and because people are demanding to know how to calculate their taxes, I have provided an ESTIMATED 2015 TAX RATE AND A 2015 TAX RATE CALCULATION on the Assessor's webpage. The number that I calculate on the assessor's page (.02241) takes the calculation out one more year to 2015 by inflating the 2013 levy another 4%, which I believe is much better way of getting to an estimate of 2015 taxes than is shown on the assessment disclosure notice, even though it's any one's guess how much the 2014 levy will increase. The assessment disclosure notice is a NYS document that is antiquated, most of which is hard-coded and, therefore, we could not change. There is an explanation on the cover letter that went with the disclosure notice, but I understand that it is wordy and people probably didn't read it closely."

What are people saying?

  • Many have noticed that their assessments are $100,000 or $200,000 more or less than their neighbors on similar lot sizes with homes in similar condition? Why? It's difficult to know.
  • Though Tyler Technologies assessed each home based on 17 characteristics, it appears that lot size weighed heavily in the equation. The bigger the lot, the higher the taxes, even if much of the lot is wooded or wetlands and is not buildable area.
  • We've heard comments about location and noted that there seems to be little difference in assessments between similar homes on busy streets and quiet streets –though location is a significant factor in home pricing and buying decisions.
  • Those who are facing large tax increases are questioning the basis of the new assessments. At the high end, there are few comparable sales and it's difficult to know how the assessor was able to define "fair market value."
  • Those who are poised to get a decrease, are wondering why they were asked to subsidize their neighbors – sometimes at a cost of $5,000 a year in overpayments. Now that the new valuations are out, they are asking why they have to pay taxes based on the prior assessments for yet another year in 2014, further compounding their losses.

Will the cycle end? Though it was hoped that the revaluation would stem the tide of certiorari claims, the new valuations will undoubtedly stir a new wave of tax grievances. In fact, the Scarsdale Village Assessor has arranged for representatives from Tyler Technologies to hold informal meetings with the aggrieved at the Scarsdale Congregational Church during the month of April. If taxes on these properties are reduced, those reductions will be borne by the balance of taxpayers, pushing their tax bills upward.

Realtors have noted that sales of high-end properties, above $3 million, has fallen off of late... perhaps due to uncertainty about real estate taxes. Now that the valuations have been released, the sales prices of these homes could fall, spurring reductions in taxes on these homes. Again, those tax reductions would mean an increase for everyone else.

Incoming President of the Scarsdale Forum Bob Berg who championed the revaluation said, "I am speaking both personally and as Chair of the Forum Assessment Revaluation Committee. Property taxes in Scarsdale have been a particular fixation of mine ever since I moved to the Village in 2002, and over the ensuing years, I encountered many examples of egregiously unfair property assessments when I prepared for various tax grievances I filed against the Village in my effort to obtain assessments consistent with the changing market value of my property. In early 2010, former Mayor Carolyn Stevens asked the Forum to consider researching and drafting a report on property tax fairness in Scarsdale. I agreed to form and Chair the Assessment Revaluation Committee. After extensive research and analysis, the Committee determined that serious inequities had, indeed, arisen since the last townwide revaluation had been completed in 1969, and the Committee strongly recommended that the Village conduct a revaluation. The Committee issued a comprehensive report documenting the inequities and buttressing its recommendations, and our report significantly influenced the Village Board to proceed with a townwide revaluation. Notably, our report found the largest inequities in the treatment of larger estate properties in the Murray Hill/Heathcote estate area, with many of those properties being vastly underassessed based upon their market values. Although I have not had time to analyze in any depth the preliminary assessments just released by Tyler Technologies and the Assessor's Office, I have reviewed a non-random sampling of properties. To me, at first blush, it seems that the revaluation has largely corrected the inequities that I had found so troubling. For instance, many of the smaller properties I reviewed will see in decrease in their property taxes; others will stay basically the same. As we predicted, a number of the estates lining Heathcote Road will see dramatic increases in their property taxes (e.g., from $147k to $276k for one well-known property; from $151k to $217k for another; from $100k to $169k for a third). Another example is a house on 2.5 prime acres on Morris Lane of my friend who recently passed away who paid property taxes of $55k last year and would now pay $92k. Because of the ad valorem nature of property taxation in NY State and the zero-sum game for distributing the property tax burden, these wealthy homeowners were being massively subsidized, in many cases, for decades, by the rest of Scarsdale's taxpayers. Revaluation seems to have largely eliminated these gross inequities. At the granular level, however, individual property valuations arrived at by Tyler Technologies preliminarily may have issues. For example, I believe (unsurprisingly, I'm sure to some) that my property has been significantly overvalued in the revaluation – no property in my neighborhood has sold in that price range since 2006. Consequently, I will avail myself of the opportunity to meet with Tyler Technologies tomorrow night to discuss the valuation and to review the comparable sales upon which Tyler relied. If I remain unsatisfied, I always have the option to file a grievance between June 1 and 17. Overall, I think the revaluation process has worked very well. The appraisers have been very professional. Cooperation from Village residents has been unbelievable – I have heard that well over 90 percent of residents have allowed internal access to their homes which is unheard of. Tyler has been open and cooperative in setting up follow up meetings, and hopefully I will be left with a valuation I can live with. If not, I can always move to Christie Place."

As the tax role is a public record that is posted on the Village website, it is easy to see who's paying what. Here are a few interesting examples from the new tax role:

2CooperRoad2 Cooper Road: Now on the market for $16.5 million the property has a new assessed value of $11,360,700. Taxes on the old assessment were $128,908. But now, with the new assessment, taxes on this 3.75 acre property are estimated at $254,593 per year.

18HeathcoteAerialView18 Heathcote Road: This one is a puzzler. Though it's on 5.39 acres, the assessed value has dropped from $7.7mm in 2013 to $6.9mm in 2014. In 2013, real estate taxes were $188,000 but are now estimated to be $154,651 far less than other homes on smaller plots on Heathcote Road.

We compared two houses on the same street in Greenacres and noted a wide disparity in their valuations:

The first is at 3,689 square foot house with 6 bedrooms on .31 acres rated excellent overall. The house is valued at $1,375,000. Two houses away is a comparably sized home with 3,638 square feet of interior space, on .3 acres, rated "good." The second house received a valuation of $1,662,000, almost $300,000 higher than their neighbor. Though both paid $31,000 in real estate taxes in 2013, taxes on the second home will rise to $37,000 in 2015, for no rhyme or reason. Go figure!

If you have stories to share, please email them to us at, or post them in the comments section below.


#29 Real Estate Professional 2014-05-01 10:57
With the lack of transparency being shown in how the Village of Scarsdale and Tyler Technologies' revaluation figures resulted in putting such a high increase on specifically the land value in Scarsdale, the following is something Scarsdale residents might want to consider. Residents can obtain through the Scarsdale Village Hall public records under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), how many homes were sold in 2013 to builders for demolishing and rebuilding vs. homes sold to private individuals for intent of living in existing homes.

So the challenge with the records is that you cannot tell what the outcome is on most of the homes demolished. However, here is a total (keeping in mind some homes appear twice for demo and rebuild):
Demo and rebuild = 3 / Demo only = 21 / Partial demo (no rebuild) = 6

It is probably a fair assumption that the 21 demolished will eventually receive a permit for a rebuilding. So let’s say 24 in total for 2013. The records list all the sales which total 382 (some appear twice so they were only counted as once). The tricky part is that there is carryover in years. So for the list of demo’s for 2013, only a portion show as purchased in 2013 as they could have been purchased in 2012 and the permits filed in 2013. Likewise there are probably builders purchasing homes on the list in 2013 that the permit requests will appear in 2014
But allowing for assuming the same carryover from year to year, it could be said that of 382 sales, 24 were for the intent of demolishing and rebuilding. This represents 6.3% of the sales in 2013. So the question begs, how can the town and Tyler Technologies place so much weight on the land portion of the assessment that is driven by builders’ intent to demolish homes when this represents only 6% of homes sold in Scarsdale? Put another way, with 94% of homes sold to private individuals for the intent of living in the existing homes, then it appears necessary to assume this is the likely buyer demographic and the assessments should be made with more weighting on the home and less on the land given the intent to live in and retain the home.
#28 Joan P. 2014-04-17 12:01
The Village of Scarsdale is catering to outside builders who want our land for huge profits. Shame on you Scarsdale Village Hall.
#27 Resident 2014-04-09 21:44
Just to note: When grieving you are compared to sales in the area, not what others of similar properties were assessed at. You can't argue that one of your neighbors was undervalued more.
#26 Assessment Specialist 2014-04-09 12:37
Response to Greenacres Question -- You should immediately arrange an appointment with Tyler Technologies to go over your assessment and explain why you think it is too high. Tyler will consider your arguments and facts and let you know by June 1 whether or not your assessment has been changed. If you are still not satisfied, you should file a grievance between June 1 and 17. If you want to have any chance of winning that grievance, you should get a legitimate appraisal which will probably cost you between $500 and $1000. That appraisal will be individualized to your property, unlike the mass appraisal techniques being used by Tyler. Your appraisal will value your house in relation to comparable sales in your area and make any necessary adjustments based on your property's individualized circumstances. The Board of Assessment Review will examine your grievance over the summer and you will be advised by September 15 of its determination. If you remain dissatisfied, you can file a petition for small claims review in Supreme Court, Westchester County. In a few months, the assessor will contact you to discuss your petition. If you are unable to resolve your petition with the assessor, the petition will proceed to trial before an administrative law judge. But the key is to get a bona fide appraisal from a respected appraiser.
#25 Greenacres Question 2014-04-09 00:06
Can you win a grievance simply by proving that your valuation is too high compared to others who have more land, more square feet, better condition and more/better structural attributes? I.e., can you win it without actually getting another assessment on your own house?
#24 Greenacres resident 2014-04-07 16:26
Dear GA Homeowner:
From my personal experience, you should get a good faith appraisal of your house - not a low ball appraisal but one that can be defended in court. Do not tell the appraiser you want a tax grievance appraisal - tell them you want a fair market value appraisal. If indeed it shows a value less than your new assessment, you will need to file a grievance by June 17th , but be prepared for the standard letter that the Village sends in August stating " you have failed to provide evidence and therefore we deny your challenge." They are hoping you will give up. Don't. Then, you can file in Small Claims court and get an impartial hearing officer. I have done this for myself and a friend and received reductions to exactly what we requested. If you are comfortable with the process there is no reason to hire someone - it is straightforward . I would suggest that if you end up in small claims court you pay your appraiser to go with you - otherwise it is your word vs. the Village Assessor's and she is a professional in the field. Good luck.
#23 GA Homeowner 2014-04-07 15:40
I saw the remark made by Gatta in the Scarsdale Inquirer last week maintaining that a $10,000 increase in valuation means about $30 more in tax. I sincerely hope that Gatta is not a Scarsdale School alumnus because if he is, the new guy will have to have the school budget cut considerably as we pay for good schools not this. Actually a $10,000 increase in valuation is closer to $220 more in taxes per year.

On another note, I just met the Tyler associate to grieve my new assessment that values my house $200,000 more than it is now. Now, I am not a long term resident having bought my house 6 years ago. There are no real comps as houses with my value have not really sold. So the comps I was shown were all for larger houses on much larger plots with a "smoke and mirrors" weighting factor thrown in to value my house. On my block is a house of the same plot size as mine and a slightly larger living space and it is for sale at $190,000 lower than my valuation. House is also in much better condition inside and out. I wonder if Tyler will buy mu house at its own valuation. I am ready to sell instantly and buy the house 3 doors away and make a tidy profit in the bargain.

Anyway, bottom line is I am preparing for the Jun 1-17th grievance already. Any suggestions on whether it is better doing it my self or hiring one of the companies whose letters and offers have been coming in my mail box recently. I am not going to take a $6400+ tax increase lightly.
#22 Any recommendations 2014-04-07 13:36
Who does anyone here recommend as best tax grievance specialists?
#21 Get out already! 2014-04-07 11:23
"Is it Scarsdale's intent to force seniors to sell?"

Yes -- I believe that's one part of this. And I do wonder if the builders and related industries were the advocates of this whole ridiculous re-eval which was pushed under the guise of 'reducing number of grievances' -- ha, the grievances will certainly increase exponentially!

The irony is that the elderly don't even use the expensive resources that predominantly contribute to Scarsdale's explosive budget.

A town full of hypocrites who preach tolerance and inclusiveness.
#20 Amelia 2014-04-06 23:24
I am very surprised at the hostility toward older homeowners who live in some of the property in Murray Hill. Mr. Berg refers to the people who live in these properties as "wealthy homeowners". How is he so sure? They bought and paid for their homes many years ago. Does that make them wealthy or just smart and frugal? He conveniently fails to remember that when these properties were purchased in the 1960's and 1970's they were undesirable "white elephants. If you look at what these properties cost to originally purchase, the spread of prices between more modest homes and these "mansions" was smaller than you might imagine. Many of the buyers were taking a risk on a maintenance nightmare.

Doubling taxes on a residence that has been occupied by a family for 40 or 50 years means doubling taxes on someone who is older and has invested many years into Scarsdale. Is it Scarsdale's intent to force seniors to sell?

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