Good Grief!

Unless you’re an idiot — like me — if you own a home, you probably should have grieved your property taxes over the last couple of years, maybe even more than once.  It’s almost a sure thing that your municipality has been assessing your home at more than what it’s worth — and that you’ve been paying your taxes on that inflated value.  (Many tax bills, like mine, include the value at which the municipality is carrying your property.)

I speculated that grievances, and the reduced assessments that I figured went along with them, were going to be yet another problem for already-strapped municipalities and that, given the state of the real estate market, this would play out nationwide.  Looks like perhaps I was wrong:

I live in a community of about 5,500 households and a smattering of commerical businesses.  Curious about what was going on with regard to grievances, I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  This is what I got back (all calculations are mine):

In 2008, there were a total of 227 grievances filed (ed. note: both residential and commercial; unknown the number of each).  Of the 227 grievances filed, a total of 64 assessments (28%) were reduced by the Board of Assessment Review.

In 2009, there were a total of 551 grievances filed (+143% over ’08).  Of the 551 total filed, 41 assessments (7.5%) were reduced by the Board of Assessment Review.

Here are my three takeaways:

1)  That even in 2009 only 10% of property owners grieved their assessments.  The other 90% are apparently idiots like me.

2) That in 2008 only 28% of those who grieved got relief and,

3) That in 2009 only 7.5% of those who grieved got relief.  What kind of sick joke is that?

I suspect it’s possible that municipalities have been digging in, denying grievances in the hope of hanging on to one of their main streams of revenue.  After all, how far is the typical homeowner willing to go to shave some bucks off his tax bill?  Probably not all the way to court, with its attendant attorneys fees and inconveniences.

Any interesting stories out there?

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