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Small Claims Are A Big Pain For Pleasantville

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. – Several small claims assessment review (SCAR) settlements have left members of Pleasantville’s Board of Trustees frustrated and confused with what they said is an out-of-date tax roll in the village.

Last week, the board was asked to approve four separate SCAR settlements on Pleasantville properties featuring a total reduction of $38,050 in assessed value. Trustee Jonathan Cunningham said the near 25 percent reductions were “ridiculously wrong.”

“I don’t understand how you get that big of a drop,” he said. “I don’t understand what drives these numbers.”

Mayor Peter Scherer said the over-assessed properties are the result of an old tax toll, which he said is filled with inefficiencies and inequities. He believes there are just as many under-assessed properties in the village as over-assessed, but, for obvious reasons, typically only those looking to reduce their rates come forward.

“The village of Pleasantville is in almost exactly the same position that every community in the region is in,” Scherer said. “We are managing old assessment rolls. The hope and expectation is that if there were ever to be a revaluation of all homes at once that you would put everyone on a level playing field and it would, we hope, be fair.”

James Timmings, Mount Pleasant's tax assessor, said when a property owner wins a case to reduce his or her rate, the village does not lose money, rather the burden shifts to other property owners to make up for the loss. While a revaluation could shift the tax burden more fairly, the costly process would have little effect on the village from a financial standpoint.

“The municipal entity still raises the (money) they need,” he said. “The only difference is that those who received reductions are paying less; those who did not receive a reduction are paying more.”

Timmings estimates with any sort of property revaluation, one-third of the residents in the village would pay more taxes, one-third would pay less and one-third would pay the same.

“Fundamentally we are supposed to be taxing based on fair market value,” Timmings said. “So these filers are not getting some unfair advantage, they are simply asking that their assessments reflect fair market value.”

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