Why Pay More When You May Not Have To? Fight!

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Are you frustrated because of high property taxes?

Well, there’s a simple way you can slash your bill.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young reports, thousands are challenging their property tax bills this season — and winning.

In one specific part of New Rochelle a house worth $700,000 has annual taxes that come to just about $18,000.

The owners think that’s too high.

“We’re trying to sell the house now and it’s going to be impossible with taxes of that amount and [my] sister and I decided it was time for us to grieve this,” Sharon Babnoff said.

As many as 17,000 Westchester County homeowners are expected to fill out grievance forms and challenge their property tax assessments this year.

It turns out the information in many assessment rolls hasn’t been updated in since the 1950s.

“A third of the property owners are actually properly assessed, a third are actually under-assessed and third are over-assessed,” tax consultant David Ruzow told Young.

That has tax consultants’ phones ringing off the hook. They take a cut if they get your tax bill reduced and a lot of the time they’re successful.

“In this year’s budget we had to raise taxes 3 percent just to break even on income, revenue that we would generate from property taxes, because of the grievances that resulted in a reduction in the roll,” New Rochelle City Manager Charles Strome said.

Experts told Young the problem would be fixed if properties were simply re-assessed more often to find out who’s paying too much and who’s paying too little.

The town of Pelham and Rye do it every year. Other towns, though, have been reluctant to follow.

“Politicians are afraid to do it. That’s basically it,” Pelham assessor Michele Casandra said.

They’re afraid of raising taxes on grand old homes that may be under-valued on the tax books and catching flack for that, so, instead, towns stick with the old increasingly inaccurate system.

How inaccurate is it? Well, one homeowner found out her home was worth $200,000 less than it is assessed at. Her tax bill is going down.

Tax grievance season in Westchester runs through the end of June. Property tax values have plummeted sharply in the northern parts of Westchester. Communities closer to the city have seen values remain more stable.

Do you think your property taxes are way too high? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

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