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Court Dismisses Article 78 Filed by Scarsdale Committee for Fair Assessments

countycourthouseThe long awaited decision by the court on the Article 78 proceeding filed in January 2017 by the Scarsdale Committee for Fair Assessments is in: Judge Bruce Tolbert of the Supreme Court of the State of New York denied the Article 78 in its entirety and granted the motion to dismiss.

The Article 78 asked the court to annul, void and rescind the 2016 tax assessment roll for Scarsdale and roll back valuations to 2015 assessments. If the Village failed to roll back the assessments, they asked that the petitioners who would pay more taxes on the 2016 roll than the 2015 roll be refunded the difference.

In April 2017 another group of Scarsdale residents filed a motion to intervene to "correct the false record put forth by the Committee and make clear that "all other taxpayers in the Town/Village of Scarsdale" do not agree that the Committee represents their interests." In fact, the motion says that the intervenors "Object to the Village wasting its time and money defending the Article 78" and also "Object to the prospect of Scarsdale's tax assessment procedure being dictated by a judicial monitor rather than proceeding under the established municipal and state regulatory procedures and administrative remedies that govern residential property tax assessments."

Kevin Reed, one of the attorneys who filed the motion to intervene said, "Our clients filed their motion to intervene in the Article 78 proceeding to make clear to the Court that the self-appointed Scarsdale Committee for Fair Assessments does not represent all Scarsdale taxpayers. If the motion is granted, our clients will advocate to the Court that that the Article 78 proceeding is without merit, that a rollback of the 2016 assessment would cause the Village more harm than good, and that grievances with the results of the 2016 assessment should be pursued on an individual basis through the administrative and judicial mechanisms provided by New York State law."

In the decision dated 1/5/2018, the court rejected the Committee's Article 78 petition on every front. Most importantly, the court dismissed the Committee's central argument—that the Ryan Revaluation was fundamentally flawed and unfair—holding that the challenge to the Ryan Revaluation was "false[]" and based only on a "vague argument" that amounted to an "idea that 'we liked the first one better.'" The decision says, "There is a lack of substance and empirical data by what is presented by the movant in this matter. Clearly, there is a need of sound theory and objective data which is necessary to overcome the presumption regarding the validity of the challenged assessment."

The court found that the committee lacked standing to plead as they are not "a person or a corporation who is a taxpayer." The decision says, "this formed committee, the Scarsdale Committee for Fair Assessments, is not a property owner in its own right, nor is it an incorporated entity."

The court also noted that a full-scale roll-back to the Tyler Revaluation would cause "chaos" and "disrupt[ion]" to the Village. The Committee's Equal Protection claim was rejected for the simple reason that "all of the residents of Scarsdale were treated the same" as they were all subject to the same, valid revaluation.

At a more basic level, the court questioned why the Committee chose to proceed through an Article 78 proceeding rather than individual grievances, as many individual Scarsdale residents do every year. This point was reinforced by the intervenors who volunteered to participate in the action on the side of the Village. The court noted that some of the intervenors "saw a raise in their real estate taxes with the 2016 assessment," and "some have sought Article 7 relief as well." The court observed that this stood in contrast to the Committee, whose members could have sought individual relief but instead chose to seek a full-scale roll-back, which was "clearly against any public policy agenda of any municipality including Scarsdale."

Commenting on the dismissal, Scarsdale Village Attorney Wayne Essanason said, "The decision speaks for itself."

You can read the entire decision here

The Committee has 30 days to choose to appeal this decision.

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