The tax assessor also processes the applications for tax exemptions; the School Tax Assessment Relief (STAR); the enhanced star for residents over the age of 65; the basic star for those who are under the age of 65 and whose income is under $500,000; the veterans’ exemptions; and religious exemptions. Some exemptions require annual applications and others have income limitations.
The tax assessor also reviews new properties as they are built, looking at the permits and inspecting the properties, including all the subdivisions and property mergers that require new parcels and addresses to be created. Assessor Sirota works with the Planning Department and the Building Department during new development permit processes. One of the most recently added assessments to North Castle’s tax roll is the Armonk Square property. Sirota says this assessment was complicated because there were so many different issues to be considered.
To begin with, the property is one tax lot that is listed on the 2013 tentative tax roll for $260,000. The property was assessed at a time when the progress of the entire construction project was measured and recorded as a partial assessment. An assessment calendar requires that a property review be based on where the progress of the construction is at the time, and the assessment be based on the progress at the cut-off date on the calendar year. The property has to appear on the tax roll for taxes to be paid in the following year. The taxable status date measures the condition and ownership of a property as of June 1 of every year, although beginning in 2014, the taxable status date will be May 1. This is also the last day to file tax exemptions.
The tentative tax roll comes out on June 1. This is the time that the review of all assessments, which include the market value, the assessment, the ownership and the zoning information, are done. All of North Castle’s parcels are on the tentative tax roll. The ownership information is public, along with the legal address, the school district information, acreage, zoning, and any exemptions that exist on the property. This information is available online via the town's website. The assessment roll and tentative roll can also be accessed online through the newly assigned section, lot and block numbers.
The tentative assessment is also online, but it is not final because taxpayers may challenge their assessments. Individual property owners have a review period to grieve their taxes for about three weeks after the tentative assessment is complete. Any residents or property owners in North Castle who have a question or concern regarding their assessment can meet with Assessor Sirota for an informal review to discuss why they believe their assessment is overstated. The time frame to question assessments starts in April.
The tax assessor's office responds and reviews assessment inquiries. If people have concerns about their assessments, both commercial and residential, the tax assessor's office will inspect the properties and have an informal meeting to discuss the assessment. The property owners should provide an appraisal and state the reasons why they are concerned about their assessment. For review purposes, the Valuation Date measures the property value from July 1 of the past year. When reviewing the value of a property, comparable property sales come from the valuation date of July 1, from the previous year. If a settlement is reached during an informal review, there's an agreement and the process is complete. The informal meeting period ends before any grievance hearings take place.
If there is not an agreement that the assessment is too high between the property owner and the tax assessor, the next step for the property owner is meeting with the Board of Assessment Review on Grievance Day (the third Tuesday of June). The Board is made up of five individual residents. This year the Board of Assessment Review received less than 10 grievances. There are individual property owners who had hired a representative, and this year only two reps, who had multiple cases, came to speak to the Board. After Grievance Day, the Board meets in closed session to review each grievance and reach a termination of denied, reduced, or no change. Denied means that the property owner did not provide all the necessary information that the board requested and a determination could not be reached.
This year the tax assessor's office saw a year-to-year 20 percent decrease in the number of grievances filed. Although the number of grievances declined, the dollar amount was offset because higher-end properties were grieved, and therefore, the total amount of dollars contested was higher, despite fewer grievances filed. Grievances are cyclical, says Ms. Sirota. But it is assumed that the real estate market may have bottomed out, and therefore, fewer grievances have been requested since market values are rising.
The Final Assessment Roll and the Tentative Assessment Tax Roll is online on the Town’s website. The assessor's goal is to become more efficient and to allow the public to have the tools to gain the information that is accessible online as a "one-stop shop." The online files also include a graphical depiction of all the parcels in North Castle. Another objective of the assessor is to transfer all the standard information from the printed property cards to an online site; the site would provide easy public access through electronic files from a future kiosk to be located in the tax assessor's office. This would include the assessment history of all 4,793 parcels in town. It will have a view of the property’s land, the building and the sales history. All of the handwritten property-tax cards in the tax assessor’s office will be scanned into the system during August and the images of these property cards will also be available online.