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Tax Appeals Put White Plains Assessor Years Behind

When Lloyd Tascher began working as the tax assessor for White Plains 10 years ago, he “maybe” had five residents challenge the assessed value of their property. This year, Tascher and assistant assessor Richard Brann will attend 540 judicial hearings on residential tax appeals.

“The tax assessor’s office, unlike some departments, gets more busy during bad times,” said Tascher. “Almost every year we have to add another cabinet for the court proceedings. We’ve had to send some of the stuff to a warehouse just to fit current court proceedings in the office.”

The economic lull has inspired people to look for ways to save money, and according to Tascher, more White Plains residents are turning to the host of new White Plains tax appraisal companies that have bombarded customers with advertisement campaigns.

“Every home gets an average of five letters from tax appraisal companies a year,” said Tascher. “The number of companies grows every year.”

Revenue loss from this year’s tax appeals will be absorbed in the 2012 to 2013 budget. However, last year’s 485 residential property tax challenges translated into about $1,300,000 less funding for the 2011 to 2012 budget.

“Traditionally commercial appeals have played a larger role... in decreasing city revenue,” said Tascher. “The commercial appeals by far outweigh the residential appeals, but you can’t just dismiss the residential appeals anymore.”

Last tax season 90 percent of appeals got reductions due to a recent court decision. Before then, tax appeals were thrown out if residents didn’t let the tax assessor inside their homes. Now the tax assessor’s office “literally has to settle or try every single case.”

“I used to be able to do a lot of fieldwork and be current on all buildings, permits, and inspections,” said Tascher. “Now that’s impossible. We’re one to two years behind.”

Residents who were denied a property tax reduction or were unhappy with the reduction they got from the board of assessment began filing to take their case to court in March. Beginning May 20, the tax assessor’s office began handling the challenges in two small claims assessment reviews a week. Tascher said they may not be through with the appeals until September or October.

The spike in tax challenges has kept Westchester tax assessors so busy that politicians are considering a countywide re-evaluation of property taxes.

“The tax assessor’s association supports a full county re-evaluation because it represents full equity for all taxpayers,” said Tascher.

This July Westchester will give local tax assessors thousands of aerial pictures of their municipalities in anticipation of a re-evaluation, according to Tascher.

“It’s the strongest push in many years for a re-evaluation,” he said.

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