Assessment notices blanket Lancaster; review deadline March 30

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No one was spared in Lancaster’s revaluation blitz, as 19,202 assessment notices were mailed this week, the first time in a decade a townwide reassessment was conducted.

Town officials and department heads said their own property values have increased from 19% to 48%.

Supervisor Ronald Ruffino’s home on Pleasantview Drive saw a 26% increase, from $210,000 to $265,000. Trustee David Mazur of Red Clover Lane saw a 27% increase from $287,000 to $365,000. Town Justice Anthony Cervi’s home on Nicholas Lane jumped 23% in value from $324,000 to $400,000.

Town clerk Diane Terranova experienced a 44% increase on her six-bedroom home on Lake Avenue, from $181,000 to $260,000. Police Chief William Karn experienced a 19% hike, from $210,00 to $249,000. Part-time assessment clerk Tina Powell of Heritage Drive saw the highest percentage increase of Town Hall workers, 48%, with her projected assessment jumping from $174,000 to $257,000.

Residents won’t know their tax bill until the final tax rate is determined when the budget comes in, said Robert Leary, the town board’s representative on the revaluation project. When reviewing the notice, residents should focus on the 2020 assessed value, said Rebecca Baker, assessor. This is the number future tax bills will be based on, starting with the school bill in September.

Assessment numbers are based on the inventory here and a visual inspection of the property’s exterior, said Baker. Property owners can challenge the new assessment. A residential assessment review application is available online or at town hall, 21 Central Ave. The deadline to submit the application is March 30.

“If there is anything we should know – backyard conditions, roof leaks, basements with water, submit supporting photos, appraisals and surveys,” said Baker. “We recommend that people fax, email or drop your materials off. We have 19,000 parcels. There is not enough time to have everyone come in and sit down.”

Property owners should also be aware that many exemptions have changed depending on the equalization rate, which is at 100%, Baker said.

“The basic STAR exemption is $30,000. If the equalization rate drops to 77%, which is what the town was assessing before, the basic STAR was only $23,100,” Baker said. “That should offset some of the assessment.”

Leary believes the town should conduct assessments on a yearly basis. Leary, who lives on Sawgrass Lane, saw a 32% increase – or $85,000 – in his home’s value.

“That’s the issue. It would be easier to conduct assessments every year just to look for trends,” Leary said. “If the budget stays the same, the amount you’ll need to pay per thousand should stay the same – at least for the town taxes.”

No assessment plan fits every town, or all the time, said Baker.

“If the real estate market is relatively calm and the equalization rate stays at 100 percent or even 95%, is it cost-effective or advantageous to property owners to conduct a townwide project? No!” said Baker.

The town contracted in 2018 with GAR Associates to conduct the revaluation. The company’s $282,000 fee plus an additional $15,000 in printing and mailing costs is being paid for by the town over three years. After July 1, the town will be able to seek reimbursement for a portion of assessment costs from the state, said Leary.

Published by The Buffalo News

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