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Greenburgh Wants Homeowners Who Grieve Taxes to Pay

ELMSFORD, N.Y. - Homeowners who challenge their property tax assessments would be charged for filing their complaints, if officials from Elmsford and Greenburgh get their way. The officials have joined others across New York in lobbying state representatives to pass legislation that would allow municipalities to charge property owners a filing fee when challenging assessments.

The proposed fees of $25 for residential properties and $50 for commercial properties would help offset the manpower hours municipalities devote to the sometimes lengthy proceedings, according to Elmsford Administrator/Clerk Michael Mills, while also relieving some of the burden from taxpayers who don't file grievances, the Westchester County Chapter of the New York State Assessors' Association (WCAA) has argued.

"I think it's prudent. I don't think it's being unfair to anyone," said Elmsford Village Trustee William Zimkin. "The fee is chump change at best compared to some of the settlements. I would suggest we support this 1,000 percent."

Last year, a so-called Mandate Relief Design Team, formed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and chaired by senior adviser to the governor and former Westchester County Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz, recommended the fee, which would need to be approved by the state Legislature.

State Assembly member Sandra Galef (D-Ossining) supports the legislation. Last October, she was urged to push for its passage by Greenburgh Town Assessor Edye McCarthy, who stated in a letter to Galef that Greenburgh would have collected approximately $100,000 in 2011 from the nearly 3,600 petitions filed.

"I believe this proposed legislation to be fair and objective, and once implemented, benefit each and every taxpayer within the Town of Greenburgh," McCarthy stated. "The Assessment Department's determination to guarantee equity and fairness within the tax rolls reiterates our obligation to move this forward. This is a prime opportunity to offset escalating administrative costs with a smart fiscal policy. This legislation is by no means a deterrent to our taxpayers."

In a January 2012 correspondence to the legislative committee chair of the New York State Assessors' Association, WCAA Past President Philip Platz maintained the filing fee for grievances was no different than building and planning fees charged by municipalities, noting the legislation would not bound any municipalities from levying the fees.

"Since we do not charge a fee, the vast majority of the taxpayers who do not file an assessment complaint any given year are completely funding the administration and defense of the cases for those who do file," Platz stated.

The Elmsford Board of Trustees Tuesday night approved sending the village's letter of support for the legislation to Galef, state Assembly member Thomas Abinanti (D-Greenburgh), state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Greenburgh) and the New York State Conference of Mayors.

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