by Josh Frankel
With distance growing from the Ryan revaluation, and in the midst of our political season, there seems to be some revisionist history sprouting up about how the Ryan reval wasn’t all that bad after all. It might be instructive to recall how we got here.
Let’s start here: In his final report to the Village, Ryan stated this as fact: “Since the value of additional living area is shown to increase at a decreasing rate, living area is transformed using the square root function. The result is multiplied by the coefficient for square root of living area, or $5,000, as also shown in the report.”
Ryan never provided any support whatsoever to demonstrate that Scarsdale’s “living area is shown to increase at a decreasing rate” and, in fact, it was subsequently shown at a Board meeting that a linear, not square root, model was a better fit. The implications of Ryan’s use of a square root formula were huge: All else equal, a 10,000 square foot home would be valued at only twice that of a 2,500 square foot home – four times the home at only twice the price. Does anyone think that’s an appropriate model for Scarsdale? The square root formula performed exactly as one would have expected – smaller homes on smaller lots overwhelmingly saw their assessed values rise, while larger homes on larger lots overwhelmingly saw them drop. 77 percent of properties in our A5 zone (5,000-7,500 square feet plots) saw their assessments rise, while 80 percent of those in our A1 zone (1 acre – 2 acres) saw theirs decline. Mission accomplished. (I’d note that Ryan also never explained the seemingly arbitrary $5,000 multiplier.)
Ryan was contractually obligated to turn over the entirety of his work product to the Village: “Contractor shall submit to the Town Assessor preliminary and final written reports documenting the valuation methodologies, processes and analyses used in determining 2016 estimated market values. Such reports will include defensible and reasonable value estimates that were developed and supported by factual market data for the parcels covered under this Agreement.” This obligation, which is a provision of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), was never fulfilled. Ryan simply never showed his work.
Perhaps most damningly, when it came time for the State to weigh in with its review of the Ryan reval, it was clearly not impressed with Mr. Ryan’s work (emphasis added):
“On 10/12/2016 the State Office of Real Property Tax Services established a tentative 2016 State equalization rate of 89.14 for your municipality. This equalization rate was computed using data from your municipality’s tentative assessment roll. If final assessment roll data produces a significantly different rate, we will recompute the equalization rate and notify you.
“This tentative rate is 10.9 percent different than the “local stated level of assessment (LOA)” declared by the assessor and displayed on your tax bills. The tentative equalization rate indicates the level at which a municipality is assessing property in relation to its full market value, as measured by the Office of Real Property Tax Services. The tentative equalization rate does not support your LOA. It is important that the stated LOA closely approximate the actual level of assessment in the municipality. If the stated LOA on the tax bills is substantially different than the actual level of assessment, it may impede the ability of taxpayers to determine whether they have been fairly assessed. We recommend that you examine your assessment roll for inequities and consider another reassessment.”
That’s the state telling the village that we should “consider another reassessment.” Let that sink in for a moment.
To recap: Ryan made a very dubious and unfounded assumption, never showed any of his analysis, and was roundly discredited by the state, to cite but three issues surrounding his work. Also noteworthy is the fact that the Ryan reval produced more grievances after only two years than Tyler produced after forty-four, which simply defies common sense. There is much, much more to this story – such as the fact that the Village is still withholding some $50,000 Mr. Ryan claims he’s contractually due – but this is an adequate first installment.
It’s my strong suspicion that most of this newfound romanticizing about Ryan has to do with a desire by some to discredit the nascent Voters Choice Party and maintain the status quo. In other words, it’s politically motivated. If it weren’t, one would have to ask where these Ryan acolytes have been for the last 10 months, and why they’re only coming out of the woodwork now? Everyone should vote as they see fit, of course, but no one should cast a ballot believing that those who criticized Ryan were misguided or wrong to do so, as that’s simply not the case. The Ryan reval was an unmitigated disaster, and no amount of revisionist history will change that.
Josh Frankel is a long-timer resident and Scarsdale. He is a financial advisor on Wall Street.