By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Did you know that there is a way you can protest your property taxes and possibly get them lowered? If you answered no to that question, Kirk Tzanides isn’t happy. He’s also not surprised.
Tzanides, a longtime Bay Ridge resident, is the Brooklyn representative to the city Tax Commission, a six-member panel that hears appeals from property owners and renders decisions on whether the city has overreached in coming up with the assessment on what a piece of property is worth.
“Most people don’t realize there is an agency separate from the Department of Finance and that the taxpayer has the right to appeal if they don’t like the assessment from the city,” said Tzanides, a lawyer.
The Department of Finance determines the amount of property taxes you pay by assessing the value of your property. Taxpayers can appeal the assessment to the Tax Commission.
“We’re there to provide a fair and impartial adjudication,” Tzanides said.
Tzanides, who was first appointed to his post by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2001, was recently re-appointed to a new term by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“What I want people to know is that there is no downside to filing an appeal,” Tzanides said. “We can’t raise your property taxes. We can either lower them, or keep them the same. So, you really have nothing to lose by filing the appeal.”
In 2011, the commission heard 50,000 appeals from property owners who were unhappy with their taxes.
Tzanides cautioned, however, that while the commission is sympathetic to appeals from down-on-their-luck homeowners, it does not rule on the basis of emotion.
“We have to apply the law. We’re there to make sure the Deptartment of Finance is being fair in its assessments. An individual’s assessment is based on property taxes in the area they live. If the assessment is accurate, we can’t order it lowered just because you believe it’s too high,” he warned.
Eager to spread the word about the commission and its work, Tzanides does a great deal of community outreach. He speaks at civic meetings to explain the tax laws to help the public understand its rights.
Tzanides is no stranger to public speaking. He served for three terms as chairman of Community Board 10, from 1997 to 2000, a role that entailed having to lead the board’s monthly public meetings. A chairman also sets the agenda for a board and serves as a spokesman for the group. Community boards are composed of 50 volunteer members who serve as representatives for their neighborhoods to the city administration. The boards advocate on behalf of their communities on such issues as land use, police and public safety, and capital construction projects.
“Those were very lively days,” he recalled of his tenure on the board. “We were dealing with a lot of issues, like zoning, and all kinds of things.”
Tzanides maintains his law practice while serving as a tax commissioner. He specializes in real estate law. The Tzanides Law Firm is located at 275 Madison Ave.
He is a graduate of Saint John’s University, where he earned a B.S. in political science and minored in business. St. John’s University is also where he earned his law degree.
Tzanides and his wife Joanna, a pharmacist at Farmacon Pharmacy on Fifth Avenue, have four children. There are also hundreds of other children in Tzanides’ busy life. He is the president of 68th Precinct Youth Council, a sports organization affiliated with the police precinct.
“We field over 1,000 children in various sports,” he said.
Baseball and soccer are the two most popular sports in the program, he said.
The council, a volunteer organization, is “always looking for field space in our local parks,” he said.
Taking part in sports is a great way for a child to learn about life, according to Tzanides.
“They learn the importance of teamwork and unselfishness,” he said. “We like to think we mold good citizens.”
The youth council has been providing opportunities for kids for more than 50 years.
“We have grandparents who bring their grandchildren to play. The grandparents played for us when they were kids. That’s how long the council has been around,” Tzanides said.