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Recent Exposé Uncovers Tax Overpayments by Croton Seniors

February 21, 2006

Grievance Day is being held today, February 21, 2006, from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM in the Assessor’s office at the Stanley H. Kellerhouse Municipal Building in Croton-on-Hudson. The purpose of Grievance day is to allow Village residents to dispute the assessment of their property—a value that is used to calculate property taxes.

This year, Grievance Day comes on the heels of an article published in the Gazette on February 16, 2006 by Robert Scott called “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten us into” that uncovers errors is applying New York State tax exemptions for senior citizens in Croton-on-Hudson. Mr. Scott notes that “as a result of recent goofs on the part of the Village dating back to 2003, seniors entitled to substantial tax exemptions did not receive them” and “lowered assessments for seniors translate into lower taxes for seniors”.

In short, as Mr. Scotts writes, “the Village employee responsible for accepting senior citizen tax exemption applications neglected to notice changes promulgated by Albany and failed to notify Village management”. Therefore, an updated assessment schedule from New York State that raised the total income levels and corresponding exemption percentages was never applied to the tax rolls in Croton—leaving seniors who applied for the exemption paying taxes that were higher than should have been.

Mr. Scott, in his article, also notes that neighboring towns such as the towns of Cortlandt, Yorktown, Ossining, Lewisboro, and the villages of Ossining, Briarcliff Manor and Tarrytown “have all formerly adopted the latest assessment reduction schedule”.

Most troubling of all is that after Mr. Scott notified the Village of Croton on Hudson of their error, their only near-term plan is to notify seniors about the availability and application procedures in an upcoming Village newsletter. Additionally, “when asked about what can be done about rectifying past unreasonable tax charges”, the answer from the Village was “Nothing”.

However, since Mr. Scott’s article was published by the Gazette, at the regularly scheduled Village of Croton-on-Hudson Board of Trustees meeting on February 21, 2006, a resolution will be introduced calling for a public hearing at the next Village Board meeting on March 6, 2006 for a new local law belatedly bringing the Village’s exemption schedule into line with that of other communities after having let nearly five years go by.

To learn more about the general guidelines for the assessment review process, see the New York State Office of Real Property Services and schedule and/or schedule an appointment with Mr. Sperber himself.

On February 21, 2006 12:13 PM, weewill said:

As a sitting trustee in 2003 when this mistake was made, I accept my share of the responsibility for inadequate oversight of the changes in the income level for senior tax exemptions in the village.

In addition, I don’t believe the answer that “nothing” can be done is adequate. It adds insult to injury. Not only should the error be acknowledged in the upcoming newsletter but, in my opinion, individual letters should be sent to those seniors who are already participants. Amounts should be recalculted and refunds should be made. This would seem to be a simple accounting matter. Money has been found in the past for “unusual” events and should be pursued for those seniors.

Also, a word about the specific office responsible for the oversight. This is a village of 7000+ people with 4700+ households. Given the fact that one person wears three hats in the Village Engineer’s office, that of Building Inspector, Code Enforcement Office, Assessor and Sidewalk program manager, perhaps it’s time to think about more help in that office.

Failing more help, perhaps it’s time to revisit the possibility of the Town of Cortlandt Assesor assuming responsibilities for Village assessments as well. It’s been rumored that the County of Westchester along with NY State are going to be mandating a total re-evaluation of real property values in the very near future. That might be the perfect time to transfer assessing responsibilities to the Town of Cortlandt.

Georgianna Grant, Ex-Trustee



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