Grievance Day

WASHINGTON — Grievance Day, when residents may either appear in person or send a letter to challenge property assessments, was May 24 at Town Hall.Grievance Day occurs each year in New York. This year there were 24 submissions, 10 presented in person and 14 dropped off at Town Hall. “Normally what happens is people feel their value is too high,” Mayor Laura Hurley said. “Every once in a while we have people who feel it’s too low, but the burden of proof is on the resident to show that the assessor is wrong. So the state requires that they provide supporting documentation as to why they feel they’re overvalued.”Residents have the option of meeting with the assessor throughout the year to settle disagreements. If an agreement is not possible, residents can make an appointment with the Board of Assessment Review (BAR) on Grievance Day. If they are not pleased with those results, they may take the matter to small claims court, and even up to the Supreme Court, according to Hurley. Residents of the village of Millbrook and the town of Washington are well aware of the Grievance Board, especially after revaluations were done in 2006.“What we did, we brought all of our property values up to 100 percent market value or what the assessor felt they would sell for,” Hurley said. “So that changed everyone’s values, where we hadn’t had an update in over 20 years.” After the revaluation, Hurley said the public became more aware of how property values affect tax bills. “Because, theoretically, everyone’s values go up, your taxes don’t necessarily go up. It’s just the tax rate goes down because there is a fluctuation in the overall assessed value of the town,” she explained. Most residents have made sure their property value information is up-to-date with the village by keeping track of their inventory. They do so by checking that the municipality’s records are accurate, reporting the correct number of bedrooms in a home, or whether there is a pool, a garage or other notables. “It’s very important to look at sales. The 100 percent market value is based on sales, and assessors work with the state of New York to determine what sort of increase or decrease we have seen in sale prices,” Hurley said. “Then you will be surprised at how many residents keep track of sales as well. The economy was stagnant in Duchess County for a long time, and we’re still nowhere near the 2004-05 level. So I think overall the public is very educated.”Of the 24 submissions to the Washington BAR this year, Hurley said a majority were complaints that a property value was too high. Hurley blames this on misconceptions of comparing taxes to home value. “Unfortunately, people equate the amount they pay in taxes with their home value,” she said. “So while it’s true we often hear, ‘My taxes are too high,’ and that may be, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your house is valued too high or your house is valued disproportionately. It just may mean that you’re not happy with the budgets that were passed by the school, the county and the town. ”

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