June 28, 2012 UPDATE: Yonkers City Hall Continues to Take an Official Stand While Acceptin the Grant Funding and Conducting This Study. This Cirumstance has Been Hushed by Yonkers City Hall for Over 3 Weeks.
PEEKSKILL, NY and YONKERS, NY — The City of Peekskill will join the City of Yonkers and the Town of Greenburgh to ascertain if reassessing properties for multiple municipalities will be cost effective.
Peekskill received a letter from both Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano asking if Peekskill was interested in adding their name to a Request for Information (RFI), an initial process that is free and doesn't require any commitment. The June 4th letter said that a "shared revaluation [would] create fair and equitable assessments in Westchester County" and described the partnership between Yonkers and Greenburgh as "historic."
At Peekskill's Committee of the Whole meeting last week, the Feiner and Spano letter was discussed and members agreed to be included in a RFI. "If we piggy back on other municipalities it makes common sense," said Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster.
Foster add that it would be important to establish a protocol for frequent property reassessments. According to Peekskill Assessor Denise Knauer, Peekskill has never had a reassessment. Most other Westchester municipalities have not had a "reval" for at least 50 years. Greenburgh's last reassessment, or revaluation was in 1956.
This has been a hot issue for Westchester Country where many have demanded a countrywide revaluation. "This is a huge issue and a huge process for the county," said Foster. "But the county is not leading here. The country doesn’t have the infrastructure or the internal process to deal with this issue. The communities will have to explore this issue themselves."
Yonkers and Greenburgh represent over 20 percent of the properties within Westchester County. Feiner and Spano are gearing up to solicit vendors to research and document potential savings of property reassessment for several cities and towns under the same contract. Estimated costs for Westchester municipalities to run their own reassessment have ranged from $3 – $5 million, one of the main reasons Feiner and Spano were inspired to join forces. Whether other towns and cities will join them in the actual joint reassessment remains to be seen. Greenburgh was recently awarded a federal grant to hire Berkely college interns to enter data that will eventually be used for the reassessment. The grant is expected to cut about $50,000 a year off the cost of doing property revaluations.
The push to have a comprehensive reassessment of all properties is because municipalities have seen record numbers of property tax appeals over the last five years. The escalating rate of tax grievances has forced towns to refund millions of dollars to property owners, further depleting municipal funds and causing town tax hikes.
The main reason for reassessment is to set a market value on all properties. When towns revalue properties, many inequities are realized; some people find that they are paying lower taxes, others might pay the same amount, others will pay more. Because Westchester has not conducted a county wide revaluation in over 50 years, there are unequal county tax rates in different towns for different years. For example, this year the county portion of the property tax in Greenburgh will go up 3.12 percent, Bedford residents will see a 9.30 percent hike. While Rye county tax goes up 5.4 percent, Yorktown tax will be 1.3 percent. Some, like Feiner and Spano, believe that a county wide, comprehensive reassessment conducted at the same time would illuminate the revaluation inequity between communities.
Foster said a number of municipalities have started reassessments on their own.
"Other communities have engaged firms and they are sharing their information with us so we can tailor it to our needs. Right now, we have agreed with Yonkers and Greenburgh to have Peekskill be included among those municipalities asking vendors about their services. At this point we are a long way from joining a [formal] collaboration effort, but it will be interesting to see if there are any savings in numbers."
Feiner and Spano RFI outreach to vendors has set September 1, 2012 as the deadline. Feiner said the Town of Bedford has also agreed to add their name to the list. "I’m very pleased – the momentum will build up for a county wide reassessment."
Abby Luby is a Westchester based, freelance journalist who writes ocal news, about environmental issues, art, entertainment and food. Her debut novel, “Nuclear Romance” was recently published. Visit the book’s website, http://NuclearRomance.word-press.com/ .