As you may know, last week Governor Cuomo signed the “phase-in” legislation proposed for the Town of Ossining, which allows the Town to institute an exemption allowing property owners whose taxes stand to increase to apply for a “phase in” of the taxes associated with that new assessment. We have received several questions from residents about how this legislation may affect them, and I wanted to take some time to address the questions as we move into the Public Hearing process.
The law itself ( you can find a copy here) allows for a phase-in for one, two or three-family homes that fit a defined set of criteria, including but not limited to STAR eligibility, having no delinquent taxes or building violations on the property, etc. So if the law has been signed by the Governor, you may be wondering where the Town Board comes in. The Town Board has the discretion to decide at what level of tax increase residents will be allowed to apply, and the decision made by the Town will be described in Local Law #8 of 2016, on which we have scheduled a Public Hearing for Tuesday, July 26th. As of now, the discussion has only addressed properties whose taxes would have gone up in excess of 25%, although this has not been finalized. It is also worth noting that properties are not allowed to apply for the exemption if their increase in taxes is a result of property improvements discovered as a result of the revaluation, or as a result of a lost exemption of another kind.
In the event that a property fits all of the necessary qualifications and is approved for the exemption, the taxes they are scheduled to pay in the coming two years will be “phased in,” so that in the first taxable year (using the September 2016 roll), they will pay 34% of the increase, representing an exemption of 66%. In the second taxable year (using the September 2017 roll), they will pay 66% of the increase, representing an exemption of 34%, until finally in the third year, they will pay 100% of the taxes based on their assessment.
If we illustrate this using real numbers, it may look something like this: A home’s value went up from $300,000 before the revaluation to $400,000 after the revaluation, and the property taxes on the home went from $10,000 to $12,500 as a result. Assuming this homeowner was qualified and successfully applied, they would receive an exemption, but only on the additional $2,500. In the first year, the tax bill would reflect 34% of the difference ($10,850), and in the second year, the tax bill would reflect 66% of the difference ($11,650), before coming to the full tax bill in the third year (for argument’s sake, we will assume there was no change in tax levy during this three year period).
We have gotten a few questions about how these exemptions will affect, if at all, property owners who do not apply for the exemption, whose tax obligation has not changed as a result of the revaluation, or those who are expecting a tax decrease based on a decreased assessment. The truth is that everyone’s bill will be affected for the two years during the “phase in,” but probably much less than you’d assume. Please keep in mind that any exemptions are only on the increase (in this case, $2500), not the entire tax bill.
According to our Assessor, there are just 572 properties of the 10,200 parcels in Ossining that would qualify based on the criteria using 25% as the cut-off, which is just over 5% of Ossining parcels. However, many properties that fit into this category have already filed a grievance with the Board of Assessment Review and will be lowered below the 25%. Additionally, property owners have to “opt in” to be considered for the exemption, and not everyone eligible will do so.
We have heard from a few of you that you feel it is unfair to those who have been long over-assessed, who will continue to pay more than your fair share in order for others to be granted this exemption, which is certainly a fair point. It is important to note that if you feel your property is over assessed, you are afforded the opportunity to grieve your assessment every year. However, an important factor of assessment is that properties can always be lowered, but without a full revaluation, there is no mechanism in place (in the absence of new construction) to raise individual assessments as property values increase. This exemption is meant to serve as a transition period to soften the blow for those who, through no fault of their own, have been paying less than the amount of tax that corresponds to the true value of their property.
I encourage you to follow our progress on this final stage of the reval—the process to enact this exemption will need to be a quick one, since the roll will be finalized by the Assessor on September 1st. The Assessor’s Office is hard at work preparing the exemption application, and we will keep you posted as to when it will be available and by what date submission will be necessary.
Additionally, we wanted to share some information about our Waterfront Concert Series, which this past week was moved indoors to the Community Center due to the threat of thunderstorms. A big thanks to everyone who braved the drizzle to join us, and a special thanks to Breakfast for the Boys and the Gyro Uno Truck for rolling with the last minute venue change.
I hope you'll join us for this week's concert featuring The Soul Projekt. This group is a big Ossining favorite (you may remember them from the 2016 Inauguration or from various other appearances around town), and the weather looks good for Friday night, so be sure to join us at Louis Engel Park for the show!