On Tuesday afternoon, Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris, trustees Brian Gilbride and Ed Gregory, and Village Hall Registrar Sandra Schroeder sat in the Municipal Building’s meeting room and waited for local residents to grieve their property tax assessments. The afternoon is referred to as ‘Grievance Day,’ and gives village property owners, who believe their properties have been over assessed, the chance to plea their case before the village board.
Overall, there were only three visitors, or grievers, who made it on Tuesday. According to Ferraris, this number was a little less than in previous years, but he added that a reassessment was done a few years ago. A number of grievances were mailed in and then forwarded to the Southampton Town Assessors office. These grievances, along with the claims of the three visitors, will be reviewed by the Southampton Town Assessors office, as the village doesn’t have an independent assessing office. The Southampton Town Assessment review board will be in charge of reviewing the grievances.
Hugh Merle, a lawyer from Westhampton, came before the board to present a village resident’s claim. Before taking on cases of over assessed property, Merle hires a licensed real estate appraiser to do a thorough appraisal, at the expense of the property owner.
“I want all of my ducks in a row before I present [the case] to the board,” said Merle. “Or else it’s not worth doing.”
This was the first time Merle represented a Sag Harbor property owner, since he usually handles assessments in Westhampton. Sometimes, reported Merle, he will come before the board on behalf of ten to fifteen different clients.
This might be the last year the Sag Harbor village board will hold a Grievance Day. After East Hampton Town completes a town wide assessment at one-hundred percent assessment value, the village board will likely be removed as an assessing unit. With the current process, there is duplication because each grievance case presented to the village is always forwarded to Southampton Town.
“Even though [Grievance Day] is our duty, it is somewhat of a waste of taxpayer money,” said Ferraris. “But until the town of East Hampton completes an assessment, we will continue to hold a Grievance Day.”