LIU: HUGE SWINGS IN PROPERTY ASSESSMENTS REVEAL STRING OF MISSTEPS BY DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE

Audits Find DOF Failed to Warn Homeowners and Ignored Errors Made By Multi-Million Dollar, Over-Budget Computer System

NEW YORK, NY – Comptroller John C. Liu today announced that numerous homeowners were subjected to unexpectedly high property assessments at a time when home prices were stagnant because the Department of Finance (DOF) failed to adequately explain significant changes it made to its market value calculations and, in numerous cases, either assigned questionable values or made errors. The findings were the result of two new audits released today.

The Comptroller’s audits found that DOF not only caused upheavals in condo and coop property values — a determining factor in property taxes — when it changed its formula for calculating them in Fiscal Year 2011-12, but also sparked public shock and confusion by operating in the dark, with no timely warning to the public of the volatility it knew would result. More disturbing perhaps is the audits’ finding that the DOF compounded the drastic swings with inexplicable values it applied to a core group of coop and condo owners, predominantly in Queens, who saw their market values skyrocket.

“While real estate taxes are an important source of revenue for the City, homeowners should not have to endure the stress of being unable to anticipate their property taxes year to year,” Comptroller Liu said. “DOF’s recent arbitrary decisions will affect many families for years to come and raise serious questions. Even after enormous public outcry, there is still no explanation behind many of the agency’s measurements of market value.”

Numerous complaints about large spikes in residential tax bills prompted the Comptroller’s office to initiate the two audits.

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