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On Monday, Dec. 13, approximately 30 to 35 homeowners met in the Port library to participate in a discussion of several hot-button real estate issues led by Dolores Sedacca, a community service representative of the Nassau County Department of Assessment. Sedacca covered two major concerns, assessments and real estate tax exemptions. The meeting was opened by Nancy Cowles, president of the Port Washington Board of Education who commented on the importance of the discussion and its impact on school taxes in Port. The assistant superintendent of business, Mary Callahan, accompanied Cowles.

The presentation began with some insightful thoughts on how to complete the appeal form known as the AR 1, which contains seven sections. Applicants need only fill out section A, B, C, D and G and file between Jan. 3 and March 1, 2005. Sedacca pointed out that this form is not sent to the Board of Assessors but to an independent body known as the Assessment Review Commission (ARC). Sedacca assured the audience on a number of pertinent concerns, e.g., the assessment will never increase as a result of an appeal and no one will come to the house to inspect. The assessment can only stay the same or go down but in no case will it go down lower than that the owner's estimate of full market value as recorded in part D of the AR 1. Therefore, applicants may wish to make conservative estimates of full market value.

It is important to recognize that the most recent Tax Impact Disclosure Notice received will not take effect for two years. There are two major taxes on real estate, the school tax and general tax. The school tax paid in the fall of one year and the spring of the following year together with the general (town and county) taxes paid in the winter and summer of the calendar year may be referred to as the tax year. Therefore, to understand the impact Tax Impact Disclosure Notices have on real estate taxes, we should understand their evolution to the taxes due. For example, in 2004 the Tax Impact Disclosure Notice was received in the fall. Next year 2005, appeals of the Tax Impact Disclosure Notice are made from January 3 to March 1. In 2006, residents will receive a decision by April 15 on appeals filed the previous year and the first half of the school tax due in the fall 2006 will be based this final assessment. In 2007, the general tax for calendar year 2007, as well as the second-half 2007 school tax will also be based on the final assessment determined in 2006. The year 2007 may be referred to as the 2006-2007-tax year. Residents should pay close attention to assessments and appeal when necessary since many things may occur affecting property values between the time of receipt of the Tax Impact Disclosure Notices and its tax impact.

Part C can be a very helpful section of the AR 1 in adjusting an assessment. ARC may not know certain facts and this section affords the opportunity for the applicant to add them. Things like changing land usage, disrepair of the house's interior and certain quality of life issues may affect the appraisal. At this point in the discussion some residents, for what they considered vastly over-estimated assessments, voiced bitterness and frustration. Sedacca was peppered by redundant and highly personalized questions. She breezily kept the meeting on focus and tried to assuage the real or imagined unfairness of Port's most recent assessments. She patiently explained that these assessments are based on the recent selling price of five similar houses in the neighborhood. Residents were advised to review the assessments of these neighboring homes on the Internet at http://www.mynassauproperty.com/. ARC is also aware through aerial observations that swimming pools and porches may have been added. Applicants are encouraged to send recent appraisals, pictures and brief descriptions or other documentation.

There are approximately $100,000 annual appeals to the Assessment Review Commission of which, half are approved and half denied. Residents dissatisfied with the initial decision may appeal for an informal conference, which, in some cases may be done by telephone. If still dissatisfied, a third appeal, which requires a $30 filing fee, may be made to the Small Claims Assessment Review.

There are a number of law firms and other businesses that solicit residents to hire them as consultants to handle their appeal. Caution is urged since duplicate appeals made by both a resident and the same resident who appeals through a consultant will result in neither application being entertained. If you retained a consultant and wish to file on your own behalf, you must ask the consultant to withdraw and so notify the Assessment Review Commission. Conversely, had you filed on your own behalf and wished for a consultant to represent you, you must also withdraw and notify the Assessment Review Commission. In dealing with consultants, residents should read the fine print and make certain they know the number of years they are committed to the consultant.

The first exemption discussed was the STAR (School Tax Relief) exemption, which has two components, Basic STAR and Enhanced STAR. These exemptions apply only to school taxes, which represent the major portion of most real estate taxes. STAR has no impact on county or town taxes.

All residents who own their own homes not currently enrolled are eligible for Basic STAR regardless of age or income. While applications must be filed no later than January 2, 2005, applicants are urged to file them promptly by Dec. 31. Normally, there is no need to reapply in subsequent years. Exemptions are only granted on primary residences.

The Enhanced STAR exemption is available to senior citizen homeowners during the year in which the owner turns 65 and whose annual income (adjusted gross income) does not exceed $64,650. The Enhanced STAR exemption must be re-filed annually and renewal forms are automatically sent in September. Applicants for either Basic or Enhanced STAR may call the following numbers for forms and further information: 571-2377, 571-2364 or 571-6185. Forms are also available online at: http://www.co.nassau.ny.us/assessor/index.html

Both Basic and Enhanced STAR exemptions' dollar-values are the same for all residents of the Port Washington School District. The exemption amount is determined by a formula in Albany and varies by school district throughout the state. The program is funded by Albany and local assessors determine eligibility. Sedacca could offer no rationale as to how the formula is determined and pointed out the inconsistencies in the amount awarded statewide. For example, Basic STAR amounts vary from $573 in Manhasset, $722 in Port to $1020 in Plainview. Enhanced STAR amounts vary from $1095 in Manhasset, $1289 in Port to $1894 in Plainview.

On October 4, Chairman Harvey B. Levinson of the Nassau County Board of Assessors proposed eliminating the school tax and replacing it with a modest income tax coupled with a single school tax rate for all Nassau's commercial property, which would be equitably distributed to all school districts. Levinson's call to Governor Pataki for a non-partisan blue ribbon commission to study the proposal has not been answered and he suggests taxpayers write to the governor.

There are also a series of exemptions from county, town and village taxes, which are handled by the Nassau County Board of Assessors. For example, senior citizens are eligible for an exemption if they own a property for one year, one of the owners is 65 or older in the year the exemption is sought, if their legal residence and their income does not exceed $32,400. The amount of the reductions depends on income and varies from 5 percent to 50 percent. For forms and further information, call 571-0787, 571-0783 or 571-3853.

Qualified Port residents may be eligible for other exemptions and should call the appropriate phone numbers at the Board of Assessors: Veterans and Handicapped: 571-2067 and 571-2407; Limited Income Disability Exemption: 571-2308 and Volunteer Firefighters/Ambulance Workers Exemption: 571-2308. 6185. Forms for these exemptions are also available online at: http://www.co.nassau.ny.us/assessor/index.html

Special note:

Star Filing Deadline-December 31, 2004

All residents who own their own homes not currently enrolled are eligible for Basic STAR regardless of age or income. While applications must be filed no later than January 2, 2005, applicants are urged to file them promptly by December 31, 2004.


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