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Assessment Revaluations Impact Lewisboro Coffers

LEWISBORO, N.Y. – With more and more Lewisboro homeowners challenging the assessed value of their properties, town officials have felt an increasing fiscal squeeze when they’ve sat down to prepare their budgets over the last several years.

And it’s not just in Lewisboro. It’s happening all over the state.

“There isn’t a town around that’s not running a negative assessment roll,” said Lewisboro Assessor Lise Robertson. “It’s the housing market that is affecting it. As home prices come down, the assessment value is impacted and so is the whole neighborhood.”

The total assessments for Lewisboro in 2009 were $324,818,681. In 2010, that dropped to $316,673,703, a loss of slightly more than $8.1 million, which Robertson said translates to $131,787 in lost tax revenue.

Robertson said 2010 was particularly tough because it featured two reassessment requests from commercial properties – known as a certiorari. Waccabuc Country Club saw its assessment lowered from $18.5 million to $12 million. Four Winds Hospital dropped from $20.2 million to just under $18 million.

In 2011, Lewisboro’s assessment rolls took yet another hit, dropping from $316.7 million to a total of $312,305,946, a loss of $4.4 million, which equates to about $71,412 in lost tax revenue.

Robertson said that every year property owners have until June 1 to make an appraisal request. If they don’t, they have the option to take part in Grievance Day, held the third Tuesday in June every year, where they can also ask for a new appraisal.

“If [the new appraisal] is decent, then we can work it,” she said.  Otherwise, the case could wind up in court. However, Robertson said the town likes to avoid that whenever possible.

“We can try to fight it in court, but we would probably lose,” she said. “It’s not worth it, especially when you consider the court fees and things like that.”

The net result of this trend of lower assessment values is that town officials have less revenue to work with it, and since they want to avoid raising taxes, it usually means that some jobs, services or programs have to be cut.

This year’s preliminary budget proposes spending just about the same amount as last year. Even so, thanks to the declining assessment rolls, taxes could rise as much as 2.5 percent. Robertson said until the housing market rights itself, the problem will remain.

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