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Update: New Assessor Backs Out of Scarsdale Position

assessor(Updated September 26) Earlier today Scarsdale10583 reported that the Scarsdale Village Board appointed a new Village Asessor at their meeting on September 24. Charles J. Zaba, who currently serves at the assessor in Haverstraw was selected after an extensive search. However, on the evening of September 26, Scarsdale Village Manager Steve Pappalardo informed Scarsdale10583 that Zaba had a change of heart and has decided to stay in Haverstraw.

Pappalardo said, "I received a phone call from Charles Zaba, the Town of Haverstraw Assessor appointed by the Town Board on Tuesday night to fill the Scarsdale Assessor vacancy, informing me that he was backing out of the appointment and staying with Haverstraw. I am not speaking for him, but did ask him to provide me a formal letter to this effect which I will forward to you when and if received. The Village has interviewed other qualified candidates who are interested in the position and we will revisit these individuals and continue recruitment immediately. In the interim, Scarsdale’s Acting Assessor Jane Lawrence will continue in her current position."

(Original Report)

The Village Board has completed its search for a new town assessor, nearly six months after Nanette Albanese retired. Charles J. Zaba, who currently serves as assessor for the town of Haverstraw in Rockland County, will begin work at village hall on Monday, October 7.

During the recruitment process, the Scarsdale administration received 29 resumes, and seven individuals interviewed for the position, with four candidates meeting with the village board. “In the end, Charles Zaba was the best fit for the position,” according to Trustee Justin Arest, who spearheaded the process. Zaba is a New York State-certified assessor, with 15 years of experience in municipal assessor offices in both Westchester and Rockland. He’s worked as the sole assessor in Haverstraw for the past two-and-a-half years.

Zaba will relieve Jane Lawrence, who has served as acting assessor since the end of May. He’ll have his hands full rather quickly, with the impending rollout of new state assessment software, continuing calls for another property revaluation, and the ongoing debate about the effects of changes to the SALT deduction. Nonetheless, Zaba’s appointment provides an opportunity for the office to move on from past controversy and build public trust.

Property assessments and tax grievances remain hot button issues in Scarsdale, with hundreds of residents contesting their homes’ valuations every year. During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting, Robert Berg (Tisdale Road) addressed Mayor Marc Samwick’s position on postponing another revaluation until the real estate market stabilizes. Berg renewed his calls for another revaluation in the short-term, stating, “At the last meeting, the mayor noted that the Board of Assessment Review granted 118 grievance reductions, lowering assessed value by a cumulative $26 million. This amounted to about 19 percent of the grievances filed. A high percentage of filers who did provide us with independent appraisals or proof of recent sales received reductions. And, most tellingly, many of those reductions were very substantial.”

He continued, “My conclusion from working with the assessment roll this year… is that the current assessment roll is a mess. It doesn’t fairly and accurately reflect the values of many of our properties… I believe… (it) is overvalued, vis a vis the rest of the municipalities in the county, and I think we’re paying more than our fair share in county and sewer taxes as a result… To me, the only solution is to begin, now, the process of doing a new town-wide revaluation… If people disagree with their valuations, they are relegated to an expensive grievance process... It’s the village’s duty to keep the assessment roll fair, and equitable, and up to date… We can’t wait for the software… we’re going to have a new assessor… It’s really time to get started on this…. You can’t wait for the market to stabilize; who knows? This market is very dynamic. Who knew it would drop like this?”

Mayor Samwick responded, “We certainly share your view that having as accurate a roll and as equitable a roll as possible is our very clear objective… I wouldn’t underestimate the technology component of this, with both the Tyler and the Ryan revals. A substantial portion of the problems that were encountered was technologically related. To have the same system in place is not setting us up for success.” He went on, “It is a dynamic market, but it is event-driven… with the SALT tax limitation being the primary event that’s causing this. And, markets don’t react instantaneously… If we were to move forward and we’re still in the midst of a correction, then all we’re doing is ensuring that we’ll have to do a reval again.”

Michael Levine (Walworth Avenue) followed soon after, stating, “There should be ought to be some sort of quantitative proof or demonstration of a degree of unfairness that warrants a reval… I will agree with Robert that we have to keep thinking ahead on these things, but I think one way to think ahead is to start getting a consensus on how to determine what… is a material enough or important enough degree of inequity to warrant a reval and there’s no other way to solve it… If there is this kind of determination… the community has to hear that from the assessor.” He continued, “Finally, I’m not saying SALT is or is not a problem. I don’t think you can assume it’s the main driver of the real estate situation… Affluent taxpayers in 10583 were also under the AMT and, therefore, weren’t getting deduction anyway... It’s less affluent taxpayers who are not under the AMT that lost the deduction. If SALT was such an important factor, the less expensive communities would be seeing problems with sales… I just don’t think you can jump to the conclusion that SALT is that important.”

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