LEWISBORO, N.Y. – It’s not exactly a state holiday, but for some homeowners Tax Grievance Day can offer the best gift possible: a reduction in their property’s assessed value and, consequently, a lower tax bill.
However, this year in Lewisboro there seems to be fewer people putting that particular gift on their wish lists. Tuesday was Tax Grievance Day and Lewisboro Town Assessor Lise Robertson said she noticed a marked decline in the number of people who signed up for a chance to plead their case before the town’s Board of Assessment Review.
As of mid-Tuesday morning, 12 property owners had signed up for a 10-minute appointment to grieve their assessments – though Robertson said walk-ins would be welcomed.
“[Twelve] is less than we had last year when we were booked solid for the whole day,” Robertson said. “When the [real estate] market started going down a few years ago, those were busy years. Everyone was looking to reassess their property. Now, I think that those who wanted reviewing have been reviewed, so we are starting to see a decline.”
The number of grievance applications filed by tax-reduction companies – who file on behalf of homeowners – also has dropped from last year, when about 225 applications were filed. This year, that number is down to about 150.
Robertson said homeowners often turn to tax-reduction companies because they are intimidated by the process. However, she points out if residents come to her office before June 1 she is more than happy to take them through the process and help them with their application to prepare them for Grievance Day.
“They can use us and we won’t charge,” she said. “These companies will take 50 percent of whatever your tax savings is and also charge you $75 for a market analysis fee. But if [the property owner] can just give me the info, we will review it for them. It’s extremely simple.”
Robertson said approximately 50 to 60 percent of those who appear before the Board of Assessment Review are successful in getting their assessments lowered. None, she notes, have ever had their assessment increased. The current board is made up of an attorney, an appraiser and a Realtor – all of whom were appointed to their posts by the Lewisboro Town Board.
It was too soon to say Tuesday how much money the town and the school district could lose to assessments that were lowered on Grievance Day, but Robertson said that with some 150 review requests filed by tax-reduction companies, it could be significant.
“The more assessments go down, the more the tax rates have to go up,” she said. “You can't take money away [from the budget] and expect tax rates to stay the same.”