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It’s Nothing Personal… It’s About Your Taxes

February 10, 2009

In New York State Grievance Day is the opportunity for owners of Real Property to challenge their property’s assessment for real property tax purposes.

Each municipality has its own Grievance day. Generally towns hold Grievance Day in the spring – in Erie County towns it tends to be the fourth Wednesday in May; the City of Buffalo’s is near the end of December. You can check on the website for the New York State Office of Real Property Services (ORPS).

Can Grievance Day help you?

Here’s what you can do to find out:

  • Check the assessed value of your property. You can look on your tax bill or check with your assessor.
  • Check the equalization rate for your municipality. The equalization rate is the percentage of market value that is shown municipality-m-wide on the tax roll. While it is supposed to be 100% in NYS, it can vary. So you need to know that percentage in order to see if your assessment is too high. Again, you can look at your tax bill, check with your assessor or you can go to the ORPS website.
  • Multiply the equalization rate times the assessed value.
  • Evaluate your property. Be realistic. Don’t be paranoid but don’t take the assessor’s word for it either. If you have residential property, look at what houses similar to yours in your neighborhood have been selling for. The assessor has this information and makes it available to the public, both in person and online. If you have recently purchased your home, use that purchase price. If your property sold for less than the assessed value, you should probably file a grievance.

If you have commercial property your job is a little more complicated. There are three ways to evaluate property – Income, Replacement cost, and Comparable Sales. Look at the income and expenses generated by your property and the sale price of other properties similar to it that have sold recently. And look at the rents being paid per square foot for similar spaces.

Grievance Day involves filing a form – the Grievance – with your municipality and presenting the Board of Assessment review with information concerning your property at a hearing. The Board wants to see documentation concerning comparable sales for all types of property, and income and expenses for commercial and income property. You should have this information available to bring with you.

Be aware that you don’t have to wait until Grievance Day to begin this process informally. You can discuss your property with your Assessor at any time. An attorney can help you with this process, starting with a pre-grievance evaluation and possible negotiations on your behalf with your assessor. An attorney can file the grievance for you and appear on your behalf on Grievance day. If unsuccessful at that hearing stage there are both Small Claims and Article 7 paths available to continue the process.

Perhaps the assessment of your property’s worth is correct, but a thorough analysis will be able to determine if grievance day is worth it for you.