Tax Bill Appeals

Tax Bill Appeals Take Rising Toll on Governments

NYT070609.jpg
Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Gus Kramer, a California assessor, said those appealing taxes say: “When can I have my refund check? I need to feed my family

Homeowners across the country are challenging their property tax bills in droves as the value of their homes drop, threatening local governments with another big drain on their budgets.

The requests are coming in record numbers, from owners of $10 million estates and one-bedroom bungalows, from residents of the high-tax enclaves surrounding New York City, and from taxpayers in the Rust Belt and states like Arizona, Florida and California, where whole towns have been devastated by the housing bust.

“It’s worthy of a Dickens story,” said Gus Kramer, the assessor in Contra Costa County, Calif., outside San Francisco. “These people are desperate. They know their home’s gone down in value. They’ve watched their neighborhoods being boarded up. They literally stand in there and say: ‘When can I have my refund check? I need to feed my family. I need to pay my electric bill.”

The tax appeals and reassessments present a new budget nightmare for governments. In a survey conducted by the National Association of Counties, 76 percent of large counties said that falling property tax revenue was significantly affecting their budgets, said Jacqueline Byers, the association’s research director.

Officials in some states say their property tax revenue is falling for the first time since World War II.

The recession has already taken a significant toll on states’ budgets, as rising joblessness, a weak business climate and a drop in consumer demand have cut sharply into receipts from taxes on sales, personal income and business earnings.

The pain at the state level is trickling down to county and local governments. To compensate, about 10 percent of large counties are raising the tax rates associated with home values to minimize the revenue loss, the county association said.

Even so, most counties simply have to absorb the lost revenue. Municipalities are laying off workers, renegotiating labor contracts, freezing salaries and cutting services.

The revenue losses are coming as homeowners prod towns for new assessments, and as municipalities conduct regular revaluations of their real estate. While declining residential values weigh heaviest on many governments, the value of commercial real estate is also sliding as businesses shut down and move out of storefronts or shopping malls.

Property taxes are meted out by a disparate patchwork of cities, towns, counties, and school and fire districts, all with their own rules. Because tax formulas vary widely county to county, not every decrease in assessed values automatically lowers a household’s property taxes.

But officials across the country say there is no question that the number of appeals has risen from the usual trickle to a flood.

In suburban Atlanta, thousands of people lined up at government offices to file their requests for reassessments before a March 31 deadline. In parts of Ohio, appeals have multiplied fivefold. Tax lawyers in the northern suburbs of New York say they have never been so busy, and some towns have hired extra employees to sift through the paperwork and are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees to deal with the cases in tax courts.

The call for counties to acknowledge the falling price of homes is loudest in states where taxes are highest, or the housing crisis has hit the hardest.

“We’ve been absolutely getting killed,” said Robert W. Singer, the mayor of Lakewood Township, N.J., and a state senator, whose town is setting aside $2 million to pay tax refunds to homeowners. “We’ve never had this before. Usually they’re undervalued. Now, everyone’s overvalued.”

The appeals are not just coming from individual homeowners. Condominium associations and entire subdivisions are pushing for new tax assessments, as are companies that own office towers, industrial parks and shopping malls.

New Jersey, which has the nation’s highest property taxes, has been besieged by tax appeals from homeowners like Peggy Tombro, whose rambling home in Bound Brook is assessed at a value of $1.8 million but is languishing on the market with an asking price of $1.3 million. Her taxes are increasing to $53,000 a year.

“I don’t know what else to do,” said Ms. Tombro, 63, who has gone back to work selling antiques to pay her tax bill.

In the Inland Empire of California, near Los Angeles, Joylette Lynch, 70, is challenging the assessed value of her home as she tries to scrape together $1,158 a month to pay her mortgage, taxes and other bills. Her two-bedroom house in a community for older residents was worth as much as $280,000 three years ago, but houses on her block are now selling for less than $100,000.

“If the house is not worth what I bought it for, why am I paying the same amount in taxes?” she asked.

Ms. Lynch, meanwhile, lost her job at a Bed, Bath & Beyond this year, and is behind on her mortgage payments. Shaving a few hundred dollars off her annual tax bill of $4,300 might not keep her out of foreclosure, but it would help, she said.

“Everything’s in God’s hands now,” she said.

Officials say stories like these are common as unemployment hits 9.5 percent and people seek to trim their budgets. Appraisers and assessors, normally concerned with land values and comparable sales, are becoming ersatz crisis counselors.

Jeff Furst, the appraiser in St. Lucie County, Fla., said a 62-year-old man recently walked into his office and described how his wife had been laid off and his salary had been cut in half. He was struggling to pay his taxes and looking for relief, Mr. Furst said.

“We’re hearing from people like this every day,” Mr. Furst said. In St. Lucie, which sits along the Atlantic, property tax revenue is expected to fall 20 percent, and tax appeals are 10 times as high as they are normally. “Most people are going to see a significant decline in their tax bill.”

Mr. Kramer, the assessor in Contra Costa County, said homeowners started swamping his office with requests for new assessments in December. As many as 500 people would call in one day. His voice mail message now begins: “If you’re calling to request an informal review of your property value due to the declining real estate market.”

Contra Costa has now reduced the recorded value of more than a third of the 350,000 privately owned properties in the county.

Lisa Driscoll, the county’s budget director, said property tax revenue had been growing about 8 to 9 percent a year but was now projected to decline 5 percent next year. The county has cut $50 million from its budget to offset the decline in real estate and other taxes.

Bonnie Grassley’s house in Fort Pierce, Fla., reflects the rise and fall of the broader economy. Its assessed value topped $153,000 in 2006, as Florida’s housing market caught fire. Now, it is worth $77,500.

Though her tax bill is only $150 a month, Ms. Grassley is out of work, spending her savings, and says she hopes a reassessment will save a couple hundred dollars a year.

“My home means everything to me, and it’s all I really have,” Ms. Grassley said. “I’m determined to keep it, come hell or high water. It’s a terrible way to lose your home, just over taxes.”

Posted in Taxes.

44 Comments

  1. Pingback: germany

  2. Pingback: https://www.manytube.net/

  3. Pingback: https://royalcbd.com/product/cbd-roll-on-gel/

  4. Pingback: https://royalcbd.com/product/cbd-oil-1000mg/

  5. Pingback: royal cbd

  6. Pingback: https://royalcbd.com/product/cbd-oil-2500mg/

  7. Pingback: https://royalcbd.com/product/cbd-cream/

  8. Pingback: mitrade lừa đảo

  9. Pingback: que es webhelper

  10. Hear why Millions are using this White Noise track for SLEEPING through the night. Click on repeat (loop) and sleep all night long. Optimized sound for smart phones and tablets: https://open.spotify.com/track/3UaN05tW5st7nYdxasbXcE

  11. Pingback: canada pharmacy canada pharmacy

  12. Pingback: xe88 slot

  13. Pingback: natural products

  14. Pingback: paydayloano.com

  15. Pingback: resurge supplement

  16. Pingback: 메리트카지노 사이트

  17. Pingback: free porn video

  18. Pingback: värdera klocka

  19. Pingback: silencil pills reviews

  20. Pingback: escort umraniye

  21. Pingback: buy viagra illegally

  22. Pingback: supplements

  23. Pingback: here

  24. Pingback: sisteme de copiat

  25. Pingback: iflix

  26. Pingback: Visit our site

  27. Pingback: film izle

  28. Pingback: hd film izle

  29. Pingback: handyman near me

  30. Pingback: online casino

  31. Pingback: Aaron Lal

  32. Pingback: my mega888 plus

  33. Pingback: https://youtu.be/qSE-R_LQJww

  34. Pingback: Adam Robinson Bendigo

  35. Pingback: Nevada Goold

  36. Pingback: stakexchain registration

  37. Pingback: malaysia cheat engine mega888

  38. I made a website using joomla and I have a domain and a server, the problem is whenever I go to that domain the site is still unviewable. Does onybody know how to help me out?.

    https://ask-cloudkicker.tumblr.com/

  39. Hello there, I found your blog via Google while searching for a related topic, your web site came up, it looks great. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

    http://yourmatrixcashmachine.com

  40. Pingback: セックス ドール

  41. Pingback: download mega888 green

  42. Pingback: incorporation services singapore

  43. Pingback: Julian Di Benedetto

  44. Pingback: Buy Weed Online

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.