Active Rain May 12, 2011

The High Taxes in Westchester as Seen Through the Lens of the New York Times

I am told that Westchester County property taxes are the highest in the nation. After reading this article in the New York Times on the effects of tax grievances in the County, I was inspired to make the following comment:

 People aren’t grieving their taxes because of the companies selling the service; companies are selling the service because taxes here are insane. 

What the article fails to address-astonishing, really, considering the subject matter- was the feeding frenzy of the town governments when the market was hot. They’d raise your taxes to the tune of 50% in 10 years, but when values went down they weren’t very interested in making corrections downward. Municipal and school budgets got bloated in the madness as well, which never should have occured. God forbid you build a deck or add a bathroom- they would hammer you. 

Many of these grievances are new homeowners saddled with assessments that are six figures higher than their purchase price. It could be far worse- most towns valuations assessments are decades-old figures that require a complicated equilization to translate to real market numbers. If more people saw the real numbers, appeals would spike.

There were other comments worth reading and I highly recommend checking out the editors choices. This guy was particularly compelling, asking the Times to just stop covering Westchester because their coverage was just off. 

The NY Times does, in my view, have a peculiar view of my county, and it seems hard to believe we border New York city at the Bronx. Westchester has plenty of affluence but we also have lots of working middle class property owners who are getting hammered with assessments that do not accurately reflect market value. The notion that we should just pay them anyway because, heck, we’re rich right? is insanity. 

Moreover, the suggestion that tax appeal companies are driving the high number of grievances is also incredibly obtuse. That is supply-side economics, an anathema to the Times. The companies aren’t creating the demand for lower taxes, the high taxes are. I don’t know the exact percentage of my buyer clients who do so, but plenty of them grieve their taxes as soon as they close, because their purchase price is far under their assessed value.