What is Property Tax?
Property tax is a local tax based on the value of real property. Real property is defined as land and any permanent structures attached to it. Examples of real property are houses, gas stations, office buildings, vacant land, shopping centers, saleable natural resources (e.g. oil, gas, timber), farms, apartments, factories, restaurants, and, in most instances, mobile homes.
Counties, cities, towns, villages, and school districts each raise money through property tax. The money collected funds schools, pays for police and fire protection, maintains roads, and funds other municipal services enjoyed by residents. The Town of Cortlandt sends property tax bills in April for the Town and County, and in September for the School bill.
What determines the amount of a Property Tax Bill?
The amount of a particular property’s tax bill is determined by two things: the property’s taxable assessment and the tax rates of the taxing jurisdictions in which the property is located. The tax rate is determined by the amount of the tax levy to be raised from all, or part, of an assessing unit, and the unit’s taxable assessed value. The assessment is determined by the assessor and is based on the value of the property less any applicable property tax exemptions.
What kind of property is assessed?
Every parcel of real property is assessed no matter how big or how small. Real property is defined as land and any permanent structures attached to it. Examples of real property are houses, gas stations, office buildings, vacant land, shopping centers, saleable natural resources (e.g. oil, gas, timber), farms, apartments, factories, restaurants, and, in most instances, mobile homes.
Though all real property in an assessing unit is assessed, not all of it is taxable. Some, such as religious or government owned property are completely exempt from paying property taxes. Others may receive a partial exemption, such as veterans, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities. To find out if you qualify for any exemptions you can contact the Assessor’s office at 914-734-1040 or click here.
What is an Assessment?
A Property’s assessment is a percentage of its market value. Market value is how much a property would sell for under normal conditions. Assessments are determined by the assessor, an appointed local official who independently estimates the value or real property in an assessing unit. Assessing units follow municipal boundaries – county, city, town, or village.
The assessor can estimate the market value of property based on the sale prices of similar properties. A property can also be valued based on the depreciated cost of materials and labor required to replace it. Commercial property may be valued on its potential to produce rental income for its owners. In other words, the assessor can use whatever approach provides the best estimate of a property’s market value.
Once the assessor estimates the value of a property, its total assessment is calculated. New York State law provides that every property in most municipalities be assessed at a uniform percentage of value. That percentage can be five percent, ten percent, fifty percent, or any other percentage not exceeding 100 percent. It does not matter what percentage is used. What is important is that every property is assessed at the same uniform percentage within one assessing unit.
After a property’s total assessment is determined, its taxable assessed value is computed. The taxable assessed value is the total assessment less any applicable property tax exemptions.
How do I know if my assessment is right?
It is up to individual property owners to monitor their own assessments. Taxpayers should bring any questions about assessments to the assessor before the tentative roll is established (contact your assessor for the tentative roll date). A tentative roll is a list for the current year that shows assessment information for every property in the municipality.
Assessors are interested only in fairly assessing property in their assessing unit. If your assessment is correct and your tax bill still seems too high, the assessor cannot change that. Complaints to the assessor must be about how your property is assessed.
Informal meetings with the assessors to resolve assessment questions about the next assessment roll can take place throughout the year. If, after speaking with your assessor, you still feel you are unfairly assessed, ask for the booklet, How to File a Complaint on Your Assessment. It describes how to make a case for an assessment reduction to the Board of Assessment Review, provides the instructions for filing a complaint, and indicates the time of year it can be done. Please contact the Assessor’s office for more information, (914) 734-1040.
What determines the Tax Rate?
The tax rate is determined by the amount of the tax levy. There are several steps involved in determining a tax levy. First, the taxing jurisdiction (a school district, town, county, etc.) develops and adopts a budget. Revenue from all sources other than the property tax (State aid, sales tax revenue, user fees, etc.) is determined. These revenues are subtracted from the original budget and the remainder becomes the tax levy. On your tax bill property tax rates are expressed as a percentage per $1,000.00 of the assessed value of your real property.
How is my tax bill figured out?
Property taxes are an ad valorem tax, a tax based on the assessed value of real property. Two owners of property that are of equal value should pay the same amount in property taxes. For example, the owner of more valuable property should pay more in taxes than the owner of less valuable property.
The property tax differs from income tax and sales tax because it does not depend on how much money you earn or on how much you spend. It is based totally on how much the property you own is worth.
For example, if an assessor assesses property at 15 percent of value, a house and land with a market value of $100,000 would have an assessment of 15,000. With no exemptions, this is the houses taxable assessed value. This 15,000 is not the tax bill. The tax bill for this house depends on the municipality’s tax rate.
The tax rate is determined by dividing the total amount of money that has to be raised from the property tax (the tax levy) by the taxable assessed value of taxable real property in a municipality. If, for example, a town levy is $2,000,000, and the town has a taxable assessed value (the sum of the assessments of all taxable properties) of 40,000,000, the tax rate would be $50 for each $1,000 of taxable assessed value.
$2,000,000 / $40,000,000 = .05 x $1,000 = $50 (tax rate)
The town tax bill for this house with an assessment of 15,000 would be $750. The $750 results from dividing the assessment of 15,000 by $1,000 to get $15 (because the tax rate is based on each $1,000 of assessed value). Then, the $15 is multiplied by the tax rate to get the tax bill of $750.
15,000 / $1,000 = $15 x $50 = $750 (tax bill)
As you can see, the size of the tax bill depends on both the assessment and the tax rate, which is based on the tax levy.
What else may occur before the Tax Rate is final?
There are times when tax rates cannot be set until the tax levy is apportioned, or divided, among various municipalities. Apportionment occurs if parts of a school district, or special district, exist in more than one city or town. Taxes are apportioned so that the parts of the district in the different municipalities each pay their fair share of the district tax levy.
The county tax levy also is apportioned among the towns and cities in the county. This is so that cities and towns will each pay their fair share of the county tax levy.
What makes my tax bill change?
Tax bills increase for one or more of the following reasons: bigger budgets are adopted, revenue from sources other than the property tax shrinks, the taxable assessed value of the assessing unit changes, or the tax levy is apportioned differently.
Taxpayers unhappy with growing property tax bills should not concern themselves just with assessments. They also should examine the scope of the budgets and expenditures of the taxing jurisdictions (counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts, etc.) and address those issues in the appropriate available forums, such as meetings of the state, county, or town, and school boards.