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Mayor: Bronxville Assessments Among County's Best

Photo Credit: Paul Bufano

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – Mayor Mary Marvin writes a weekly column. It is being reprinted by The Bronxville Daily Voice.

After undertaking a comprehensive property revaluation in 2007, followed by an update in 2011, the trustees and I adopted a good practices resolution to keep the assessment values up to date and defensible. To this end, we unanimously agreed that the property values in the village, both commercial and residential, be reviewed when the coefficient of dispersion (COD or error factor) reached 12 percent or in the alternative, theboard would consider the benefits of another review every three years.

Because our COD since 2011 has been below our guidelines and is currently 10.5 percent, which is one of the best in Westchester County, we did not trigger the process in the past two years. By way of explanation, since assessing is an art, not a science, a COD of 10 percent is considered just about ideal.

However, since 2014 will be year three of our program, we needed to begin putting into place a plan, so any adjusted valuation numbers, if warranted, will be reflected on the 2014 tax roll.

To put in context, our overarching goal in property valuation in our Village is to create a system to achieve the highest possible degree of equity with the lowest possible cost to reach that goal. While some believe the best approach would be a review of all property assessments every year, the Bronxville Model, as evidenced by our past performance, appears to be both equitable and cost effective. The details of our plan are designed to increase equity under a legally sound methodology that will continue to stand up to court challenges.

Equity in real estate valuation is important in every community, but it takes on added urgency in villages such as ours where the home prices are significantly above the county median of $600,000. In Bronxville where the median is closer to $1,700,000, an error in assessed valuation of $100,000 equates to an approximately $1,700 difference in a yearly tax bill.

The fresher the numbers, the more defensible they are, resulting in savings in certiorari awards, small claims corrections and overall court costs. Thanks to recent revaluations, our number of small claims and certiorari challenges is at an all time low. But to continue on this path, the valuations cannot become outdated or stale.  Hence our program as follows:

Approximately one-third of all properties will be reviewed each year for the next three years. The process has just begun with an initial review of properties in the commercial sector, with single family homes under review in the spring to late fall to maximize sales transaction data. Recent sales data will be entered into the computer model, comparisons will be made with comparable properties – all of which will be chosen by a computerized random selection process. The entire process is completely data driven and homes will receive a curbside review. A second component of the process consists of actual home inspections if a building permit was issued during the year - culling all of the above results in viewing approximately 32 percent of the village’s property inventory each year.

Again, the goal is to have the most fair and accurate assessment roll possible by employing some of the following methods to tighten our numbers:

  • The sale prices of recent transactions will be matched with their value on the current assessment roll and adjusted if necessary.
  • Publicly advertised property information will be matched with the village’s property record cards for missing inventory and altered where necessary. As an example, if a home was sold and advertised with a finished basement and we did not have this on our inventory, the property value would be changed to reflect this upgrade.

It is important to note that without a revaluation process in place, homes that are incorrectly undervalued may not be adjusted upward and will remain undervalued in perpetuity. Conversely, in every community homeowners with over-assessed properties can challenge the value on a yearly basis. The net result is that communities that have not undertaken recent revaluations are seeing a significant decrease in their overall assessed valuation since assessments are adjusted downward yearly but never upward. An accurate and up-to-date assessment roll clearly reflects the tax base of a community, resulting in sound and reliable budgeting practices and the spirit of overall fairness.

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