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Fight:  at three a.m. on June 28th a fight broke out at the corner of Webster Road and Boulevard in Edgewood. Police were called and found 12 people in the roadway. A brother and sister were struggling on the ground, evidently as a result of a fight that started at their home on Webster Road. According to the police report, the girl's boyfriend had come to the house with friends and one of the friends made offensive comments to her. Her brother  jumped to her defense and a fight ensued in which damage was done to the fence in the backyard. The fight then moved to the street, and when police arrived they found the boyfriend hiding in the bushes nearby. He claimed that he had broken his leg in the fight and SVAC was called. However, when the ambulance arrived, the injured boy was argumentative with the paramedics and refused medical attention.

The Scarsdale resident's mother arrived and said that she had not been home and was not aware of the fight. The boyfriend's car was released to a friend as he was too intoxicated to drive. The boyfriend was issued a summons for consumption of an alcoholic beverage by a person under the age of 21. As he was walking away from the police, he jumped up and down and yelled to the police, “look my leg healed.”

Scam? In a similar incident to one last week, a nanny who called herself Nina, approached a woman on Ridgecrest West and asked for money. She claimed she worked for a Post Road family and that she had a family emergency. The woman who reported the incident gave the nanny $20 but later realized there was something suspicious about the request and notified police. The “nanny” is described as black, approximately 40 years old, 5’3” tall and wearing glasses. She was driving a blue car.

Vandalism: A French door at 93 Brite Avenue was smashed by a rock overnight from 6/25-6/26. Fortunately the house was not entered.

Identity theft: Fraudulent credit cards were opened in the name of Bradford Road residents and over $4,000 in merchandise was charged to a fraudulent Best Buy card. Accounts were also opened at HSBC, Walmart, Peebles, Sears, J.C. Penney, TJ Max, Toys R Us and Chase. In addition, attempts were made to open credit card accounts at Home Depot and Target. The accounts were opened in Maryland and Virginia.

A Myrtledale Road man discovered that someone had changed the address on his Brooks Brothers Mastercard to a Canadian mailing address. He attempted to use the card and his purchase was denied because the address he supplied no longer matched the billing address for the card. He was issued a new card and again a purchase was turned down due to a disparity in the address. Though the address was changed on both the original and replacement cards, no fraudulent charges were made.

Car Vandalism: On the night of 6/25 a Ford parked on Wildwood Road was entered. Vandals broke the drivers side window of the car. The daughter of the car owner actually saw a man standing near her father’s car. The man later got into a Mercedes and the driver of the Mercedes stopped to speak to the owner of the vandalized car and then drove away. A search of the area did not turn up anyone matching the suspects or the Mercedes SUV that was registered to the Mercedes dealership in Manhattan.

A Toyota Prius parked on Aspen Road was broken into overnight 6/25-6/26. The front passenger-side window was broken.

Thefts: a bike locked at East Parkway and Spencer Place was stolen on 6/25. The white trek mountain bike, valued at $500, was locked to a bike rack, but the lock was cut.

Ms. Shinobu Oggiura of Lee Road came to headquarters on 6/22 to report that man had stolen her metal garbage can. He took it from her property and placed it in his trunk.

Strange doings: A Cohawney Road reported some strange incidents at his home. He went out on the afternoon of 6/22 for a short time and when he returned someone had moved a bucket into the center of the garage. In addition, the previous Saturday night his mailbox had been removed. Though he does not get along with his neighbor, he did not request police intervention.

Branches and wires: A large tree branch fell on wires near the Greenacres School at Huntington and Montrose Roads around noon on 6/24. The area was taped off and the school and Con Edison were advised. The Principal arranged for children to be picked up near the field to avoid crossing under the branch.

A moving truck hit a telephone pole and brought down wires on Paddington Road on June 25th causing a power outage in the immediate area. Con Ed responded and made repairs.

Dogs: An Oak Way resident found a poodle without a collar on Fenimore Road on June 21 and summoned police who brought the dog to the trailer. When they arrived, the dog’s owner showed up at the trailer to claim his pet.

A black lab was found at 39 Weaver Street and police brought the dog back to headquarter and called his owner. When the owner arrived, he was issue a summons for failing to have the dog on a leash.

County Police stopped a driver at the corner of Kingston Road and Greenacres Avenue, as they believed he was involved in an incident of road rage. They called the Scarsdale Police to assist, but after questioning the occupants of the car, they let them go.

Police stopped a CS Plumbing van that was speeding on Post Road on the afternoon of 6/22. The DMV check revealed that the van’s registration was suspended for failure to pay for insurance. Police followed the van to the CS Plumbing parking lot where it was locked and secured. The driver was given a verbal warning about speeding and issued a summons for driving with a suspended registration.

Feuding parents Maria Lozito and Anthony Derubeis dropped off their daughter at police headquarters to facilitate her exchange for visitation on June 25th. They had a brief dispute at the police station and were referred to Family Court to resolve their differences.

There were several reports of noisy parties on 6/25, the night of Scarsdale graduation. Complaints were received about loud noise from Wynmor Park, Kent Road, Black Birch Lane, and Springdale Road, On June 26th, there were similar complaints about parties on Southwoods Lane and Cooper Road.

Burglars entered Best Buy on Central Avenue sometime during the night of 6/26- 6/27 via a hole in the roof. The vandals cut a hole in the roof of the store, dropped in through the opening and stole an undetermined number of Sony laptop computers from a locked storage bin. It appears that they left through the same hole in the roof and took property valued at more than $17,000.

Peeping Tom: A Hidden Glen Road resident saw a man peering into the windows of her home at 1:30 am on June 22nd. She observed a man outside her rear deck window looking into the house. After she sighted him, he ran into a rear wooded area.

Missing: Central Avenue residents called police after midnight on 6/22 to report that their 16 year-old daughter was missing. She was due home at 10 pm and had not appeared. Police contacted the girl via her cell phone. She said she was in White Plains and the police picked her up and brought her home.

Arrest: Two Mt. Vernon residents attempted to cash a fraudulent check in the amount of $3,258 at the TD Bank on Central Avenue on June 22nd. When the bank employee told them that she had to verify the check, they left the bank, leaving the check and their ID. Police quickly arrived at the scene and arrested Brenda Moore who had signed the fraudulent check. They asked her companion Alexander Felder to come to the headquarters as well. Police later found a check in Felder’s car and both Moore and Felder were booked for possession of forged instruments.

On the Lam:
Also on the afternoon of June 22nd, a security officer at Marshalls saw a woman switching the price tags on merchandise. She replaced stolen items with non-store merchandise and then left the store with the Marshalls merchandise without paying for it. The woman left the store in a blue Ford Explorer and though the officer wrote down the license plate number of the car, Greenburgh police were unable to locate the car.

Assault: Juan Valero of Yonkers, an employee of Pizza and Brew on Central Avenue, was hit and cut with a glass bottle behind the restaurant at 11:30 pm on June 22nd. Valero had severe cuts in the back of his head, his nose, ear and arm and was bleeding. He was taken to Westchester Medical Center for treatment. A friend reported that after the assault, the attacker fled in a silver four-door sedan, possibly a Honda.

Car Break-in: A South Central Avenue resident awoke on 6/23 to find that someone had thrown a chain at his 2008 Nissan and broken the rear window the previous night.

Busted: Joshua Epps, age 27 of New Rochelle, was arrested for criminal possession of marijuana when he has shopping on North Central Avenue on the afternoon of June 23rd. Epps was asked for identification when making a purchase. When he reached into his pocket a clear plastic bag-containing marijuana fell out. The store employee activated the panic alarm, the police arrived and Epps was arrested and taken to police headquarters.

Dispute:
Grayrock Road residents got into a verbal dispute on June 24th with a man who had been hired by the Town of Greenburgh to remove several trees from the town property that bordered on their Grayrock Road yard. The residents claimed that Nick Danisher refused to stop cutting down the trees and verbally abused the residents. Danisher reported that the residents verbally abused him. An employee of the Town of Greenbugh Parks Department verified that Danisher had all the necessary paperwork to remove the trees and the altercation was documented.

Damaged
: The facilities manager for the Edgemont Junior and Senior High School reported that an employee of County Chair Rental damaged a window while delivering chairs to the school on June 23rd. County Chair denied any wrongdoing by their crew.

The Land Use Committee of the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees met on Thursday night June 3rd to consider an innovative way to save some of Scarsdale’s scant open space. In response to resident’s pleas to limit development, Mayor Carolyn Stevens is proposing that the Village put in place a plan to purchase available parcels and keeps them green.

Given even scanter resources, how could this be financed? Stevens is proposing that Scarsdale add a small percentage to the mortgage tax that newcomers pay when they purchase a home in Scarsdale. If the Village raised the mortgage tax by as little as a half of a percent, the revenue stream from the tax could be used to pay interest on loans for property acquisitions. The land purchases would be financed through the issuance of bonds.

What would the Village purchase? Stevens would initially like to target properties that often flood and are therefore not ideal for development. There are parcels that cover portions of the watercourse that could be developed into passive parks with retention basins, serving to increase our green space and alleviate flooding. In addition, the Village would consider purchasing properties that are now privately owned but have been deemed to be too wet for home construction.

There are several steps the Village would need to take to create and Open Space Fund.

  • Village management would draft a referendum to create an Open Space Fund
  • The Village would appoint a 5-7 member advisory board to review potential land acquisitions and to prioritize which purchases prove to be the best use of funds in preserving community character. Only properties on this list would be eligible for purchase.
  • The advisory board's preservation plan would need to be adopted 60 days before a community-wide vote.
  • The proposal would be voted on by the entire community in a village-wide referendum in November. The referendum would give the Village the right to change or repeal the mortgage tax by a deemed percentage. The referendum would only need to be held once and residents would vote on the tax change and the establishment of the fund.

In the future, the advisory board would have the power to add or omit properties from the purchase list and there would be a public hearing before any purchases were made.

Stevens shared information she had gathered in speaking to Village real estate brokers and members of community groups. Brokers felt that any negative impact of the tax on buyers could be mitigated by the prospect of moving to a greener community. She reported that the League of Women Voters, the Conservation Advisory Council and the Friends of the Scarsdale Parks were already excited about the idea.

Trustees discussed the pros, cons and timing at the meeting and many questions arose. Would this increase in the mortgage tax be viewed as an overall tax increase? Since it would only hit newcomers some said no, however it was pointed out that as a home seller, there would be a slight increase in the overall cost to purchase a home potentially making it more difficult to sell. Trustee Eisenman asked, why not just issue bonds to purchase desired properties? Stevens explained that the increase in the mortgage tax would create an ongoing fund that would allow the Village to purchase several parcels and make payments from the proceeds. How much could we raise from the mortgage tax increase? Village Management estimated that a .5% increase in the mortgage tax could raise $1 million dollars per year.

Due to the short time frame between now and voting day in November, the Trustees agreed to ask the Village Manager to develop a resolution to be submitted for consideration to the Trustees at their July meeting.

The number of real estate tax grievances filed in Scarsdale has reached a new high. According to the Scarsdale Village Assessor, 756 grievances were received this year, up from 551 last year. The challenges will need to be ruled on in the coming year and no one has provided the cost of dealing with all of these cases. However, the Village Assessors’ office, with a staff of 1.5 people has a Herculean task on their hands.

Why has the number of cases risen so dramatically? Since Scarsdale has not done a Village wide reassessment since 1969, there are many inequities among property assessments. In addition, the dip in housing values has highlighted these inequities and steep increases in real estate taxes have caused many to question their tax bills.

What can be done? John Wolham of the NYS Office of Real Property Services came before the Scarsdale Board of Trustees on Tuesday evening June 22 to educate and encourage the Scarsdale Board of Trustees to do a village wide revaluation of all properties. Since 2005 two thirds of communities in New York State have reassessed and Wolham presented the benefits of doing a reassessment which is a “comprehensive review of all properties in a community in which all assessments are set back to market value.” Furthermore, “the longer it has been since a reassessment, the more likely it is that some taxpayers are paying more than their fair share of taxes while others are paying too little.”

A reassessment has many benefits, including:

  • Fairness: Every owner pays no more than their fair share of taxes
  • Transparency: Taxpayers can understand the system
  • Tax Neutral: The total taxes raised remains the same
  • Reduced Litigation: Fewer law suits and challenges
  • Economic; Helps bond rating
  • Local Control: Eliminates impact of state equalization
  • State Aid: Village would receive up to $5 per parcel each year the tax roll is at 100%


Wolham then showed what could occur without regular reassessments by giving an example of two homes:

He showed two houses built 40 years ago both assessed at $10,000. The first home now has a current market value of $1,000,000 and the second has a market value of $500,000. However, since there had not been a reassessment, both still had the same assessed value of $100,000 and therefore both were paying the same taxes, despite the fact that one home was worth twice as much as the other one.

Next he provided an actual example of two Scarsdale homes that sold within months of each other. They had comparable market values, but widely varying real estate taxes:

Location:              Stratton Road                           Penn Road
Sale Price:           $1,275,000                               $1,285,000
Assessed Value        $18,300                                    $26,000
Estimated R.E. Tax   $20,889                                    $29,679
Real Tax Rate              1.64%                                      2.31%

Though there are many misconceptions about its affect, a reassessment does not raise taxes, it simply redistributes payments more equitably so that homeowners pay taxes based on the current market value of their homes.

The trustees posed questions to Wolham. Trustee Jonathan Mark questioned how residents would perceive a reassessment. Given that the assessment will cost $1,700,000, which is about $275 per household, what benefits would taxpayers realize? After a reassessment, the experience has been that one third of taxpayers see no change, one third sees an increase in their tax and the last third gets a decrease. If this is the case, two thirds of the population sees no benefit and Mark questioned the economic rationale for the expense.

Trustee Richard Toder spoke eloquently on the fairness issue, saying that the revaluation is “the right thing to do.” He believed that after the reassessment lawyers would have reduced incentives to file tax grievances, as assessed values would be aligned with market values.

Trustee Miriam Flisser asked whether village surreptitiously raise taxes during a revaluation and was assured that this was not the case. She was told that the total tax bill is simply reallocated amongst taxpayers.

Trustee David Irwin asked if data was available from towns that have already undergone a reassessment. He wanted information on the number of challenges in the year after the revaluation and in subsequent years. This data would allow Scarsdale to do an economic analysis of the costs vs. expected savings.

Robert Berg, Chairman of the TVCC Revaluation Committee asked Village Assessor Nanette Albanese how many of the 551 grievances filed last year resulted in reductions to assessments. The answer was a surprising 90%, which leads one to wonder what will happen in the future if results are similar this coming year. As more grievances will result in even further reductions for some, those who do not challenge their tax bill will pay an increased share of the tax to fund the budget.

It appears that the Village may have no choice but to move forward to stem the tide of challengers. The Board will continue to examine the issue and would like feedback from the public. Please share your comments in the section below.

Scarsdale Village Trustees are now discussing the possibility of a village-wide real estate tax revaluation, whereby real estates values for all existing properties would be reappraised. A revaluation is a comprehensive update of all property values in the community to ensure that each owner pays only his or her fair share of the tax burden. The last time this was done in Scarsdale was 1968,  42 years ago, and therefore the Village relies on obsolete property valuations. As a result, some over-assessed property owners may be subsidizing those who are under-assessed.

In order to learn more about tax revaluations, Scarsdale10583.com posed some questions to Village Manager Al Gatta who is the Chair of the Westchester County Assessment Commission and an expert on revaluations. Here are his answers:

1. The increase in tax grievances filed in Scarsdale this past year may be an indicator of perceived tax inequities – do you agree? Although there are perceived and real inequities in any property tax system, I feel that the increase in tax grievances has more to do with the current economic and financial climate than with any possible inequities. This item may be confused since most residents advance the argument of unfair treatment in their appeals.

2. Since a revaluation would cost $1.5 -$1.8MM, and the total tax bill for the Village is what it is, how would the village recoup the cost of a revaluation? The Village would not look to recoup their investment for a full revaluation of all properties. The benefits come in more accurate values and equitable treatment for residents. Most people generally confuse a revaluation of property values to mean that more revenue will go to the municipalities. That concept is not so and the amount of taxes that one pays is based on the level of spending. Property is only valued by local governments for one reason; to tax. There are so many different values attached to a property that a person can often be confused. For example, there is market value, 100% equalized value, mortgage value, insurance value and assessed value. Most of the time, each one of these valuations are different since the reason behind each valuation is quite different.

3. In the past, have assessors asked for access into homes to do the evaluation? By law, are residents required to let them in? And if they don’t, how is the house revalued? During a property revaluation, attempts are made to enter each property. Residents are not required to allow an Assessor or a technician from a revaluation team to enter the property. However, if the Assessor is not permitted to enter the home, values are calculated through the use of information available on the characteristics on a property card, realtors descriptions, windshield observations and the context of the neighborhood. If a homeowner, as a result, is not satisfied, of course an appeal can be submitted and at the hearing before the Board of Assessment Review, the Assessor often requests that he/she be allowed to enter the premises. Sometimes it works and when it doesn’t, values in general are not changed.

4. Lee Kyriacou, Executive Director for the N.Y.S. Office of Real Property Services said that when a revaluation is done, typically one third of residents’ taxes go up, one third stay the same and one third are reduced. Is this correct? I agree with Mr. Kyriacou. Having completed three revaluations in the past, two in Hartford, CT and one in Methune, MA, the results were divided in thirds across the board.

5. Are residents compelled by law to accept their new assessment? Can they grieve it? If so, could the Village expect to get a number of grievances to the new assessments? Should a community undertake a property tax revaluation, an expert firm is retained to perform the data collection, research, analysis and valuations. At the completion of a revaluation, which could take up to 18 months, all residents receive what is termed an Impact Notice which provides information that has been collected on the property and the proposed new value. After receipt of the Impact Notice, a resident can schedule an appointment with one of the real estate experts and have an opportunity to correct any inaccurate information and dispute the value. Therefore, the number of grievances can actually decrease after a revaluation.

6. If older residents who have lived in their homes for many years are reassessed, do you expect that many would have to move? Older residents would not have to move after a revaluation since many relief measures exist in the current real property tax law including senior, military and veterans exemptions, income thresholds, phase in of new value and many more.

7. Under a reassessment, would new construction still be assessed at a higher rate than old homes? In regard to new construction, it would be treated in the same manner as all other properties. Once the property characteristics are gathered, analyses are made and various valuations methodologies are applied for all properties. Then a value is obtained.

8. What factors will the Village Trustees consider when making the decision whether or not to do the revaluation? Do you have any idea of the timing? I do not know the factors the Village Board of Trustees would consider when making a decision on whether to initiate a community wide property tax revaluation. It should be cautioned that the Village Trustees are not anywhere close to making such a decision and may never decide to undertake a revaluation. Revaluations for a community the size of Scarsdale could take anywhere from 12 to 24 months;

9. How many people would need to be retained to do it, and how long would it take? There are a few properties revaluation firms in the Country and depending on the number of parcels, a determination would be made as to the number of people involved. The largest number of individuals would be involved in data collection and less involved with the analysis. In regard to valuation methodologies, only a few would be involved as this task requires either a very experienced real estate appraiser, a post 4 or 5 year education in mathematics and/or a post 4 or 5 year education in statistics;

10. Are there other towns in Westchester who have recently done a revaluation who had not done one in 45 years (like Scarsdale?) What can we learn from their experience? The only two communities to undertake a revaluation in Westchester are the Town of Rye and the Town of Pelham. In regard to the experience of those communities, a response is generally influenced by the point of view of the observer. For example, outcomes can be reviewed in regard to fairness and equity, number of grievances, and values as they are carried forward in comparison with other communities by using the measure of the coefficient dispersion. Essentially, results can be looked at from a qualitative and quantitative platform.

Mayor Carolyn Stevens also commented on the possibility of a revaluation. According to Stevens, the Village Board believes it is the right thing to do but is considering the cost as well as resident’s reaction to the $1.5-$1.8 million dollar expense. The Board is weighing the cost of a revaluation against the expense of not proceeding, and they are now compiling the tab for defending the Village against the ever-growing number of tax grievances stemming from perceived inequities.

What is your opinion on a revaluation? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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