By Sharon Space-Bamberger
LIBERTY Ever-increasing property tax bills cripple and outrage Sullivan County homeowners. Many lose their homes to tax sales because they can’t pay their taxes. Yet, only one percent of property owners ever challenge their property tax assessments.
At the Sullivan County Tea Party Patriots’ February monthly meeting at Yaun Company in Liberty, Tax Consultant David Allen educated an audience of 60 about the property tax process and how to challenge an unfair assessment.
Allen asserted, “Property owners who own a second home are excessively taxed. They are not voters and are assessed higher than permanent residents. The second home industry has propped up this county for years.”
A colorful illustration in Allen’s handouts suggested, “What can you do about your property tax? You can do nothing, complain, or you can fight.”
Allen advocates fighting and will help you fight. “Sixty percent of the property in America is currently over-assessed,” he pointed out. “Less than one percent of property owners ever challenge their assessment. Only two percent of property owners who do not receive the requested reduction at the town grievance go on to appeal their case to the next level.”
According to the handout, “The average reduction granted at the town level is eight percent, the average reduction granted for the same property appealed to the SCAR (Small Claims Assessment Review) hearing is 18 percent and the average reduction granted for the same property appealed to the Supreme Court is 37 percent.”
Allen explained the proof needed for an appeal.“If your tax is too high, it has to do with your assessment. You have to prove that the true value of your home is less than the assessor says it is. An appraisal by a NYS Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser is based on what other similar homes in your area have sold for recently. An appraisal can prove if the assessment is excessive or unequal. A list of other homes just like or almost like yours and their appraisal helps. Many evaluations were done fifteen years ago in a hot real estate market.
“An appraisal notes any major deficiencies such as part of the property being on the other side of the road, swamp land, roof has caved in. The tax assessor assumes everything is in perfect condition.” Allen added.
Explaining the tax process Allen said, “The total budget is composed of… salaries and expenses along with bonded indebtedness (principal and interest payments on borrowed money that was voted for). This budget is then divided by the total dollar amount of all the assessed value of real estate in the tax district as provided by the assessor to determine your tax rate. That tax rate when multiplied by your property value, as determined by the assessor, equals your tax bill. The amount of taxes you pay is the result of the tax rate multiplied against your assessed value.”
Town budgets, tax exemptions and mandated services all affect your taxes. Allen noted that 70 percent of our tax dollars go to mandated items like Medicaid and social services,
Unlike ordinary citizens who base their budget on their income, Allen says taxing authorities do it “backwards.” They decide what they need to spend first, then “They tax to make sure they get it; that 30-40 percent of property owners can’t pay the tax is not a consideration.”
How can you challenge your assessment? The first step is to hire an appraisal service and ask for a town grievance with the town assessor. If you get turned down at that level, ask for a SCAR appeal hearing. If turned down at that level you can appeal to the Supreme Court.
You can do the process on your own, but most people find this daunting. If you hire David Allen, his fee is “25 percent of what I save you.”
Look under Real Estate Appraisals in the phone book.
Meeting moderator Barbara Konvalin helped the tax consultant field questions from the attentive audience.
Tea Party Patriot Jim Reed stated, “We have to understand that no rational human being will vote to sustain this system. Fifty percent of people are on the dole.”