Friday, May 28, 2010

The Shifting Sands of Assessments

The grievance process is on hiatus until June 2, but news is starting to leak out about assessment adjustments that have been made by the assessor and the Board of Assessment Review. Last Sunday, when Gossips published its feature The Million-Dollar Houses of Hudson, Sam Pratt reported in a comment that City Assessor Garth Slocum had already agreed to reduce the assessment on at least one of those properties to somewhere between $800,000 and $850,000 and word has it that Eric Galloway's attorney succeeded in getting the assessment on 345 Allen Street down to $800,000. Since assessments presumably reflect market value, and there should be, therefore, some relationship among the assessments of houses located in the same neighborhood, how does a 20 percent reduction in the assessment of one house impact the assessments of the other houses on the block? Do their assessments get reduced by 20 percent, too?

Consider these scenarios. House A sold within the past two years, and its selling price--its full market value--was used to justify raising the full market value and the assessments on other nearby houses. The owner of one of those houses--House B--presents her case to the assessor, based on square footage and comparable condition, and succeeds in getting the assessment on her house reduced. Then the owner of House A goes to the BAR and gets the assessment on his house--for whatever reason--reduced. House A, which the owner of House B argued was bigger and better than hers therefore worth more, suddenly has an adjusted assessment that is not significantly different from the adjusted assessment for House B.

House C and House D are nearly identical in location, square footage, and condition. The owner of House C considers her assessment fair and does not grieve. The owner of House D does grieve and gets his assessment lowered by 40 percent.

The owner of House E uses Houses F and G as comparables to get his assessment reduced by 30 percent. Meanwhile, the owner of House G gets her assessment reduced by 20 percent, making her adjusted assessment lower than the adjusted assessment for House E.

It's been suggested that assessment adjustments be published as they are made. Difficult as it may seem to implement (and potentially even more chaotic for property owners trying to monitor them on grievance day), it does seem that greater transparency about what is happening between the tentative roll and the final roll is necessary if Hudson is to achieve the goal of fair assessments for all.


  1. In the event of any of the above scenarios where once-comparable assessments have dropped, having filled out the proper grievance form would have reserved one's right to appeal. Surely that is how Mr. Slocum will respond.

    The question is, can the form still be submitted after learning of other's revised assessments, or is there a Catch-22 at work?

    T. O'Connor

  2. This is just more evidence -- if we needed MORE -- of the fundamental flaws in the assessment system as practiced in Hudson. It is government run amok masquerading as a rational system. If you consider that they used to lynch people in public, few questions asked, I guess it's not surprising that "we" allow this abusive assessment system to continue. It's all fine until they come to hang you!

  3. Interesting blog Carole, but one important point has been missed; grievance day is set by law, and it is a deadline, no new submissions or cases can be made after it. So even if there was a way in real time to get the adjustments made out to the public, there would not be able to use that information.
    I am hoping this last reval has eliminated the scenario you create above, which was happening in prior years because so much of the roll was out of whack.