Expert: Few Of Those Who Apply For Relief End Up Getting A Break

EASTCHESTER, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Area residents are going to battle against high property taxes.

Tuesday was tax appeal day in Westchester County, and as CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, homeowners lined up to catch a break.

The conferences began in the morning and continued all day in town halls throughout suburbia: little trials with verdicts pending. In the county with the highest property tax rates in the United States they were homeowners begging for a break.

“Our taxes are high; every couple of thousand counts,” homeowner Bill Gordan said.

Some tax appealers in Westchester hire professionals like Dave Ruzow to do the work for them. He takes a portion of the savings if he prevails, but only accepts half the cases that come to him. He said while everybody thinks their taxes are too high, only some have a case for reduction.

“A third of the properties are properly assessed, a third are under-assessed and a third are over assessed,” Ruzow said.

For example, one house in Eastchester was initially assessed at $1.7 million, but reduced last year to $1.1 million. The owner is now seeking a reduction to $925,000 with Ruzow’s help.

In that area of Westchester property taxes run about $23 for every $1,000 of assessed value, Young reported. The periodic re-assessments at market value are most shocking to residents who’ve been in their houses the longest.

“We’re talking about a couple hundred thousand dollars in assessed value,” homeowner Dave Berman said.

That’s quite a discrepancy considering Dave and Ellen Berman paid $225,000 for the whole place in 1983. The Bermans said they think the house has more than doubled in value. The assessor thinks it’s done better than that.

“The assessment we got is close to $1 million and I’d be happy to give the house for $1 million,” Dave Berman said.

Young then saw another home that was assessed at the same price it’s being offered for sale at, but there have been no takers.

“I haven’t recorded a single offer; verbal or written, on the property,” homeowner Michael Rosenbaum said.

So, like the rest, he appeals. Some will get what they came for, while others will probably be back next year.

“You get to know the repeat customers,” said Eastchester assessor Todd Huttunen.

The appeals boards will make this year’s decisions by the end of the summer.

Property tax appeals skyrocketed in Westchester County in the years immediately after the big stock market crash, but have started to stabilize.

Tax assessors say the number of appeals have dropped 40 percent this year compared to last, Young reported.

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