Weekly Feature

2007-02-28 / Editorial

Review of town's property value, assessment

SATISH MOHAN Amherst Supervisor

The Town of Amherst, with a population of 117,272, has real estate worth $9.2 billion; which is comprised of homes ($5.5 billion), businesses ($3.5 billion), and utilities and special districts ($0.19 billion).

These property values appreciate every year, but the appreciation is not uniform throughout the town. We have divided the town into 65 neighborhoods for assessment, and we assume that properties in each neighborhood will appreciate uniformly.

We determine average fair market value using the previous year's sales, and if the average value appreciates or depreciates by more than 5 percent, the whole neighborhood is assessed up or down by that percentage. This process keeps the property values at a 100 percent equalization rate.

The assessment and reassessment are continuous activities. New homes and commercial properties are added, additions are made, lots are combined, and values are revised following protests.

Three departments are involved: (i) Planning maintains plot plans and layouts; (ii) Building grants all permits; and (iii) Assessor effectuates all changes in the property cards. The Assessor is supposed to send all revisions in lot sizes if two lots are combined to Planning to revise plot plans and layouts.

For several years, we have not reviewed these hundreds of transactions that occur every year. There could be other inequities in assessments that need to be rectified. We are, therefore, not reassessing our real estate this year to 100 percent and are utilizing this one year to update our assessment roll.

Not reassessing every year is not uncommon. Western New York has 299 municipalities. Several of them reassess on a three or four-year cycle.

In 2007 assessment rolls, only 111 (37 percent) are doing annual reassessment. In Erie County, nine out of 28 towns (32 percent) are on 100 percent equalization rate. Our equalization rate for 2007 will fall below 100 percent. Equalization rate represents the ratio of a municipality's total assessed value to the municipality's total market value. A reduced equalization rate does not affect the allocation of the total tax levy; it only changes the tax rate.

There has been some concern from the school districts that school taxes will rise due to our not reassessing properties this year. This concern is not true. Two of the three school districts share school taxes with neighboring towns: Tonawanda and Clarence. According to the New York State regional director for the Office of Real Property Services, Amherst, Tonawanda, and Clarence have been appreciating at 3-4 percent, almost equally. Therefore, there will be absolutely no increase in taxes to the Amherst taxpayers.

Also, the STAR exemptions will not at all be reduced in 2007 due to a fall in equalization rate. The STAR exemptions are based on the equalization rate of last year, which was 100 percent. Since we are planning to reassess our properties at 100 percent in 2008, the 2008 STAR Exemptions will also not be reduced. I have verified this "no reduction in STAR exemptions" with Joseph Muscarella, regional director, Office of Real Property Services, State of New York.

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