Spring into Tax Savings

Spring has sprung and so has tax grievance season in Westchester.  That’s when homeowners come out of the woodwork with dreams of reducing their property taxes.  While the filing deadline has passed for the villages, the deadline for the towns and most cities in Westchester is just a few short months away on June 16, 2015.

Westchester Tax Grievance

Yet, the landscape is different this year and commonplace reductions will not be as easily won as in past years.  The reason is that many municipalities undertook market re-assessment projects in recent years:  Mamaroneck in 2013; Scarsdale in 2014; and Ossining this year for the first time in 43 years.  The revaluations have resulted in a seismic shift with lower tax bills for some and shockingly higher assessments for others.  The reality is that other than the rare exception, your property’s assessed value is now closer to the realized market value if your town has just undergone the reassessment process.

The process is easy and costs minimal compared to the savings which are often realized.  To file at the local level costs nothing.  Tax grievance attorneys generally charge a contingency fee, meaning that you pay nothing if your taxes are not reduced.  The only initial expense is the appraisal which must be done, generally less than $600 depending on your location.

Many homeowners try to employ self-help in filing the grievance application, but it’s worth retaining an attorney from the start.  If your application is denied then the tax grievance attorney will file a court appeal on your behalf if he or she is already on board.

It is also important to keep in mind that most municipalities in Westchester base your taxes on the prior year’s assessment, so if your town’s grievance deadline is June 16th for the 2015 tax roll, any reduction will not be realized until your 2016 taxes.  Therefore, don’t delay because prospective savings are still a year away.

Your taxes will not increase simply because you file a grievance application and lower property taxes can be a great asset if trying to sell your house in Westchester or anywhere else in the New York market.

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Farewell Captain

How do you say goodbye to a hero?  Someone who has been a part of your life for more than 20 years?  Someone who has brought you nothing but joy and great memories?  It’s hard but today’s the day New York says Farewell Captain.  Derek Jeter is retiring.  Me and my family will be there for part of baseball history because he has been so much a part of our family tapestry.

You have to understand what baseball is to me…it’s what bound this Daddy’s little girl to Daddy, along with dancing on the tops of his shoes.  My Dad taught me how to pitch, how to catch and he came to all of those girl’s softball games when I played shortstop, just like Derek Jeter.

Farewell CaptainYet, heroes are not born overnight.  They have to prove themselves.  They have to earn the right to your respect.  They have to lead by example and win your heart with each flub and foul…and they have to do it with grace and humility.  Derek Jeter has done just that throughout his stellar career.  So, he is not just leaving the New York Yankees but he is retiring from the game of baseball because he has been its dignified face for more than 20 years.

This summer was like the long goodbye.  Each turn at bat brought thousands of cameras out, clicking away, trying to memorialize a Jeter moment in time.  Then I went to a game and he didn’t take the field.  He draped himself across the fence in front of the dugout, his forever perch, always hugging it, head slouched, looking like a lost boy but focused on the field.  It was a bittersweet feeling for me, probably for him as well.  It’s a sadness that leaves a hole in your heart at the realization that this won’t last but the memory will.  Moments captured in the heart and not in pictures, moments you’ll remember for a lifetime because you lived the dream and believed that anything is and was possible.

I remember the day Joe DiMaggio died.  My Dad displayed a sadness I had never seen before.  He said it was as if his entire childhood and youth were slipping away.  With Sinatra’s death a few months earlier and then the Yankee Clipper.  It was a profound moment for him.

I don’t think there will be sadness in the Bronx today.  I think it’s going to be a party New York Style.  I think the cheering is going to be so loud that they’ll hear it all the way in Beantown and even the Bostonians will feel the love.

We all move onto new milestones in our lives.  Derek Jeter is looking forward to his.  Yankee Stadium was once known as the House that Ruth Built but there’s no denying that Derek Jeter lifted it to new heights.  Farewell Captain.  You will be missed…at least until the next Old Timers’ Day.

Remembering a Special Dad

Sorry I haven’t been blogging here much but I’ve been busy, having just released my second book, first novel, “Shrouded in Pompei.”  Writing priorities and life.

Fantino picnicYet, Dad’s Day is approaching. It’s a day that makes me miss my Dad all the more, even though I think of him every day. and have written about him both here and in my published memoir.  This year there seems to be a media push by today’s Dads touting themselves as Fathers 2.0, claiming they are more emotionally connected, more hands on, more in touch with their kids, more everything. It’s not only self-aggrandizing but untrue.

My Dad could not have been more hands on, sometimes literally, ouch! My Dad was a divorced, weekend Dad, who made sure he was never further than across the street, down the block or at the other end of a phone. Weekends had him cooking, washing and keeping us thoroughly entertained, while teaching us to dance on top of his shoes or make a quick throw across home plate.

He taught me respect and he taught me love by example. He did not seek accolades. He knew he needed to be different from his father but he didn’t bring attention to it, he just did it, without searching for anything but always hoping for our love and respect, which he always had.

When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, his first thought was to get him into a drug trial. “Let me be the guinea pig so you kids don’t have to go through this.”  Even in his darkest time, he showed us strength and taught by example.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my Dad was not perfect. Just ask my sisters. He was generous with his love and attention but a strict, Sicilian-Calabrese father, tight with a penny. It was a Father’s Day joke when all three of us wound up giving him the same card, referencing this weakness.  He was also strict when it came to our dating choices and all the boys in Batter Up!the neighborhood knew not to mess with him. Yet, during one difficult heartbreak for me, he gently told me “don’t worry, he wasn’t the one for you.”  I was shocked and asked why he always seemed to like the guy. “If I had given you my opinion would you have listened? So I accepted your choice.”

I think I am quite a lucky girl to have been his daughter when I hear others who did not have a great relationship with their Dad. Maybe today’s Dads need to take a back seat while being front and center in their child’s life rather than trying to pat themselves on the back with their achievements. Children and how they live their lives should be reward enough for any father.

By the way Dad, I’m taking your favorite grandson to the stadium next week to see the Yanks crunch the BoSox. It’s Jeter’s final season. Can you believe it?