Friday, May 8, 2009

Fairview/Poughkeepsie Tentative Assessments

Q: What does May 1 mean to a property tax junkie?
A: Tentative assessments are published.

That's right, Dutchess County's Parcel Access website was updated May 1 with the tentative assessments for all real properties in the County. Before the month is over, these tentative assessments will morph into the final assessed values used to figure your school taxes in September 2009, and your county/town/fire/... taxes in February 2010.

I've taken a very informal, very unscientific look at these tentative assessments for the Poughkeepsie portion of the Fairview Fire District. Well, hopefully not completely unscientific. I've picked 74 properties from Parcel Access, and compared their tentative assessments with last year's final assessed values, which were used to figure the 2008—2009 taxes. I choose these properties partly at random, and partly to explore identifiable portions of Fairview/Poughkeepsie such as Inwood Estates and Bradley Village.

Five Percent Downward Trending

Unless you've spent the last few years in another solar system, you know that property values in the United States have been decreasing. So naturally, property values (and therefore assessed values) in the Poughkeepsie part of Fairview have tended to decrease. To account for this downward trend in portions of the real estate market, the assessor decreases all assessments in that portion by a fixed percentage. Such an adjustment is sometimes called “trending”. According to my random sample, most residential properties in the Poughkeepsie part of Fairview have had their assessments trended down by five percent. In particular, the five percent decrease applies to Inwood Estates (Eagle Lane, Hawk Lane, Hawkins Street, and the contiguous houses on Inwood Avenue and Fulton Street), what I call “West of Inwood” (Lyford Street and Waldorf Place), Summet Avenue, Buckingham Avenue, Fairview Avenue, East Cedar Street, Oakdale Avenue, Chestnut Street, Eugene Court, portions of Violet Avenue, low numbered addresses on Woodlawn Avenue, and most likely other streets I haven't looked at.

Zero Percent Downward Trending

But you did notice that I wrote “portions”, didn't you? The most interesting discovery I made is that not all portions of Fairview/Poughkeepsie were trended downward by five percent. A few portions of Fairview/Poughkeepsie were trended downward by zero percent — in other words, their tentative assessments are unchanged from last year's final assessments. Most notable in this category is Bradley Village (Peter Cooper Drive, Van Wyck Drive, Styvestandt Drive, and contiguous parts of Violet Avenue), but also Inwood Lake (see below), Lakeview Avenue, and high numbered addresses on Woodlawn Avenue.


Do not apply the above analysis to your own property unless you first understand the following two disclaimers:
  1. If some event between July 1, 2007, and March 1, 2009, caused your property's value to change independently of market trends (you constructed an addition, or part of your house burned down) then all bets are off. Your tentative assessment should reflect this event, which will probably have more effect than general real estate market trends.
  2. For most streets and areas mentioned above, I've only looked at a very small sample of properties. My extrapolations may be wrong. (This disclaimer is essentially your standard software license, “This may not work at all; too bad for you. And no matter what, I'm not responsible.”)
Inwood Lake

One very small piece of good news for Fairview property owners (unless your name is “Inwood Lake, LLC”) is the completion of the first eight (out of 52) condominiums on the Inwood Lake property (corner of Inwood Avenue and East Cedar Street). These eight developed parcels add $1.1 million to the tax rolls, thus shaving 0.3 percent off everyone else's taxes. (I said it was a small piece.) The remaining 44 parcels of undeveloped land have been trended at zero percent, as noted above. Unfortunately for Inwood Lake, LLC, none of these condos appear to have been sold, so the LLC is stuck with paying the taxes on this additional $1.1 million, as well as continuing to pay the tax on the $1.4 million of mostly-undeveloped land.

How Much Do these Tentative Assessments Affect Our Property Taxes?

For most properties, not very much. Most properties seem to have been trended down five percent; only relatively few stayed the same. If your property follows the main trend, you'll be paying pretty much the same share of the total tax levy as you did last year. This does not mean that your tax bills will be the same. Your tax bill will go up or down in proportion to how much the tax levy goes up or down. However, the 2009 Hyde Park school tax levy will be 1.16 percent greater than in 2008 (unless the school budget is defeated, in which case it will be “only” 0.52 percent greater). Either way, most properties can expect to pay one half to one percent more in school tax than last year.

But if your property is one of those few (primarily in Bradley Village) whose tentative assessment is the same as last year's assessed value, you'll be paying about five percent greater share of the total tax levy than you did last year. Once again, this does not mean that your tax bills will increase five percent. Your tax bill will go up or down in proportion to how much the tax levy goes up or down plus five percent. You'll be paying an additional five percent of tax that last year was paid by your neighbors. For example, your 2009 school tax payment should go up a good five percent from last year, regardless of whether the school budget passes.

What Can You Do?

Short answer: In most cases, nothing. You do know about death and taxes, right?

Long answer: The first thing to do is find out the tentative assessment of your property from Parcel Access. Then compare this to the Total Assessed Value of your property, as given on your 2008 school or 2009 County/Town tax bill. If the tentative assessment is down five percent, and you're happy with that, then see short answer. If they're equal, check to see if you fall into the “Bradley Village camp”. In other words, check to see whether similar properties on your street or adjacent streets have unchanged assessments from last year. You won't have their tax bills, but all real property assessments are public information. You can find last year's assessments in Document #13, which I've just added to my Fairview Fire Tax website (near bottom of web page). If this check shows your property to be in the Bradley Village camp, your best bet is the short answer.

If your property is not down five percent, and you're not in the Bradley Village camp, then you might want to consider “grieving” you tentative assessment. Or maybe just grieving. The New York State Office of Real Property Services has an excellent website, including complete grievance procedures.