By ASHLEY HELMS
Property value assessments and the future of the Village of Mamaroneck’s assessor’s office has sparked discussion again, with concerns centering on what steps the village can take if they adopt the Town of Mamaroneck’s tax rolls, including procedures for new certiorari claims.
If the village ceased to function as an assessment unit and adopted the town tax rolls, it may subsequently let go of its assessor, Lloyd Wright. As a part-time employee, Wright makes a yearly salary of approximately $33,000.
The village could save money and duplication by taking on the town’s assessment and dropping its own assessment office, but Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, said he isn’t in favor of getting rid of the village assessor. He said the village would be at risk of giving up control and direction of certiorari claims.
A tax certiorari is a process in which a residential or commercial property owner can challenge the real estate tax assessment on the property in an attempt to reduce its taxes. If the owner wins the tax certiorari proceeding, they are issued a refund for the difference in tax assessment by the municipality.
The Town of Mamaroneck concluded its full-scale property revaluation at the end of August 2013, with properties assessed at 100 percent value.
The Town of Rye assessed its properties at 100 percent value about seven years ago.
According to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, Rye Brook, an incorporated village in the Town of Rye, is happy they stopped functioning as an assessment unit and works with the town to secure a tax certiorari council it thinks is most qualified to handle certiorari claims.
The villages of Irvington and Briarcliff also abolished their assessment offices, he said.
“The bottom line is [the municipalities] are happy with the way things have gone, but it takes some follow-up and involvement,” Slingerland said.
Village of Rye Brook Administrator Chris Bradbury said Rye Brook stopped functioning as an assessment unit in 2004 when the village’s properties were reassessed at full value. Though the Town of Rye and the Village of Rye Brook had different boards of assessment review, Bradbury said ceasing as an assessment unit went smoothly since both municipalities shared the same office of assessment review, so there was no change in staffing.
“We work closely with the Town of Rye and the school districts with tax certioraris of more significance,” Bradbury said. “The Town of Rye is good at sharing info with the village.”
The Village of Mamaroneck’s discussion, and Rosenblum’s opposition to the village closing its assessment office, may tie into the possibility of the village becoming a coterminous town-village separate from the Town of Mamaroneck in the future.
In New York State, villages must exist within towns.
A coterminous town-village is a municipality that functions as both a town and a village. Home Rule legislation grants a municipality the freedom to establish its own government without a charter from the state, which is what allows a municipality to become coterminous.
The idea behind becoming coterminous would be to reduce the number of municipalities and layers of government, which would ultimately bring down property taxes.
For the Village of Mamaroneck to become coterminous, it may involve the dissolution of Rye Town. The Town of Rye is made up of the villages of Port Chester and Rye Brook and the Rye Neck section of the Village of Mamaroneck.
Mount Kisco, Harrison and Scarsdale are the only coterminous town-villages in Westchester County, at present.
Regarding the Village of Mamaroneck’s assessment office, Rosenblum said he thinks taking on the assessment rolls of the Town of Mamaroneck makes sense, but doing away with the village’s office of assessment is the real concern. If the village assumes the tax rolls of the town and gives up the office of assessment, Rosenblum said he’s concerned the village would lose its financial oversight.
“I have a very strong opposition to giving up direction for representing us on a legal basis for certiorari,” Rosenblum said.
Over the past few years, there have been a couple high-profile certiorari cases in the village.
Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht club was awarded roughly $34,000 following a certiorari proceeding against the village in 2010 for the taxing years of 2002 through 2010.
In October 2013, Hampshire Country Club lost a certiorari claim against the village; one of the very few cases from the village to end up in front of a state Supreme Court judge. The club claimed it was worth only $4.5 million, while the village estimated the property at $12 million. The club’s tax assessment value stands at $12 million since it lost the proceeding.
Trustee Leon Potok, a Democrat, said giving up the village’s assessment function doesn’t mean it will stop monitoring its tax certioraris and making sure they’re handled as well as they can be. He said the village could adopt the Town of Mamaroneck’s assessment without the village assessor having to keep track of all the properties in the village.
“We have to find out what the sacrifices are for going one route or another,” Potok said.
At this time, the conversation regarding the village’s assessment and assessor’s office is ongoing.