If you’re appealing that property assessment with the Board of Revision of Taxes, you might not have to wait for a hearing. You might be able to make a deal over the phone.
Michael Piper, the city’s chief assessment officer, confirmed Monday that the Office of Property Assessment has been negotiating settlements with some of the more than 20,000 taxpayers who didn’t like the numbers they saw when they got their Actual Value Initiative notices in early 2013.
You don’t have to sit by the phone waiting for the city to call, Piper said, you can initiate things yourself. Plenty of people do that, he said. Taxpayers and OPA evaluators discuss what could be incorrect data.
“Sometimes, both sides think it’s worth it to come to an adjustment,” he said. “It’s a rational process.”
Nobody at OPA gets paid any more or any less based on what he or she negotiates or how many cases get disposed of, Piper said. The value of the property is based on the property, not on an owner’s ability to pay taxes on it, he added. There is no range of values that are set to initiate the city’s interest in making any deals.
The BRT, so far, has received 24,557 market value appeals for 2014, Piper stated in a Tuesday email to the Northeast Times.
Over-the-phone negotiating is not the norm. Most appeals are going to BRT hearings, Piper said. Still, “Why waste time that doesn’t have to be wasted,” Piper said in a Monday phone interview. It’s possible there might be an issue that can be resolved with a phone call, he said.
Piper wrote that 5,795 have been heard by BRT. Of those, the agency denied 3,223 appeals and revised 2,572 assessments. Taxpayers have withdrawn 1,580 because of “amenable OPA revision, and no hearing was required for these.” Another 2,282 appeals have been withdrawn by taxpayers, with no changes in assessments. Piper wrote that the remaining 14,900 appeals either haven’t been scheduled for hearings yet, or have been scheduled and not yet heard.
Notices of BRT hearings get sent out a few weeks before their dates, Piper said. Some evaluators feel adjustments might be made before the hearing and might try to contact owners when they see copies of the hearing notices. They’re not always immediately successful making those connections, Piper said.
The owner of a Lower Northeast property who asked not to be identified recently gave the Times an account of his negotiations with an OPA employee.
First, some background: The owner had not asked the OPA to review the reassessment he got in 2013, but instead appealed directly to the BRT. He felt the new value was almost triple what it had been, and he thought it was much higher than the selling prices of similar properties in the neighborhood. He also thought the interior condition of the home would show that the value was really only about two-thirds the city’s new figure.
He was ready to go to the BRT and state his case when he got a phone call in May from a man who identified himself as an OPA employee. The two talked, and arrangements were made for an appraiser to visit the property and have a look inside. That was accomplished. The day before the man’s BRT hearing, the OPA employee called him.
“He offered to come down halfway,” the taxpayer said. He didn’t bite, he said. He made some arguments for further reducing the assessment, and the two men made a deal.
“We got something and the city got something,” he said. His something wasn’t bad, he said. He got about 87 percent of the reduction in his assessment that he wanted.
In most cases what this taxpayer described happening doesn’t happen, Piper said. The evaluators propose assessments they can defend, he said, and will go to BRT hearings to do just that. “Most are pretty well-versed in how to give testimony and present evidence,” he said. ••