To the Editor:
I attended a Reassessment Workshop Saturday morning, at the Town Center.
The room was about 90% full, mostly with older Town residents, plus a few really angry younger ones.
There were two speakers from the reassessment company, who explained that their company has a great deal of experience doing such work, but also that their company was being paid almost $1,000,000 by the Town to do the reassessment.
I had hoped that I would hear things that would ease my concerns with how the reassessment is being handled. Not so.
Homeowners have the option of returning, or of not returning, the forms they were sent in the mail. If they return the forms, whatever they write on them will at least influence the reassessment of their homes. It was clear that if you send in the form saying that you renovated something in your house, or added central air, or a new fireplace, or switched from oil to gas and put in a new furnace, the likely effect is that your new assessment will be higher than it may otherwise have been.
When I raised the fact that their question about a six foot high basement did not comply with New York law, they seemed to have no idea what I was talking about and of what New York law as to habitable basement spaces is. Thus anyone who sends back the form stating that his/her house has a basement is again likely to increase his/her new assessment, even if the basement is not legally habitable.
As to the question about when your house was built, they suggested that if you did renovations you use the date of the renovations, rather than when your house was built, another way to get your new assessment increased.
In fact, I found no reason why anyone should send back the form, and it was interesting that, when the speaker asked how many had done so, substantially no one had.
It became clear that if your house is in good shape, it may be a mistake to let the reassessment people into it, since that may increase your new assessment, but if it’s in poor shape, by all means invite them in, since that will decrease your assessment (but see below). In fact, since they said that they are influenced by how your house appears from the street, if the paint is peeling it is best to leave it that way, until after the reassessment is completed in late 2012 or early 2013, anyway. Make your house look the way a Larchmont/Mamaroneck house should look and your new assessment may well be higher than it otherwise may have been.
In what seems to me to be a real invasion of privacy, the reassessment people said that those who run our Town have determined that the details of our homes learned by the reassessment people (size, number and types of rooms and baths, condition, etc.) will be posted on line for all the world to see. Up to now some of that information was available to those who went to the Town Assessor’s office and checked the records that are there, or the Building Inspector’s office and checked those that are there, but now they will be posted on line. Tell the reassessment people that your basement sometimes floods and all the world will know.
Since no one has to let the reassessment people into his/her house, or even onto his/her property, those who did interior work in the past without permits will still not get caught, and will still not pay their fair share of taxes, unless they are dumb enough to let the reassessment people into their homes. How this results in a Town-wide reassessment which is “fair and equitable” is beyond me.
If you let the reassessment people onto your property, even if not into your house, they will measure your house from the outside, and will ascribe a square footage to it based upon the external measurement, despite the fact that you cannot use the space where the exterior walls are. It’s much the same as what NYC landlords do. If you let them onto your property they can also see whatever they can see from the outside, and they will not give you notice of when they are coming (unless you call them and make an appointment). Thus, if you do not want them peering into your home you have to keep them off your property, since they do not intend to ask for permission to walk on it. The only way to do that is to call them at 1-866-910-1776 before December 16th. If you make that call when most of us have time to do so, on a weekend, no one will answer the phone, but they do have voice mail and, hopefully, will call you back. Those who run our Town set things up so that you do not contact the reassessment people to give them permission to enter your property but, instead, you have to call them to keep them from trespassing on your property.
By the way, in case you were wondering, in response to a question the reassessment people admitted that MORE THAN 50% of the people in other communities DO NOT let the reassessment people into their homes, which may also apply to onto their property (no one asked that question).
The speaker pointed out that what they are doing is a “fair and equitable” reassessment. That’s their view, but it’s not mine. If you think that what the people who run our Town agreed to is fair and equitable, or if you think that you will get a lower assessment if you let them into your house, by all means complete and send in your form, and let them onto your property, and into your house. If, on the other hand, you think that “fair and equitable” means that each property is reassessed in the same manner, and that what is being done is not fair and equitable, maybe you will decide not to do so. That’s your choice.
The speakers did say that there will be a way to object to your new assessment if you think it is too high (or, I guess, if you think it’s too low), something that was omitted from the original mailing. Thus something beneficial came out at the Workshop.
Bottom line: if your house is in bad shape, and you do not mind having that posted on line, I recommend that you let the reassessment people onto your property and into your house, but I see no reason for anyone to complete and return the form we were sent.
Just my view, as one who has lived here for the past 39 years.
Ralph M. Engel