Cheektowaga reinstates townwide reassessment

The on again/off again townwide reassessment in Cheektowaga is on again.

The Town Board on Tuesday voted 4-2 to reinstate the reassessment, a plan that was rejected less than a month ago.

Deputy Supervisor Brian Nowak and Councilman Gerald Kaminski voted in support of the townwide reassessment plan, the first since 2014. Two Council members – Christine Adamczyk and Brian Pilarski – sparked the reversal, adding their votes to keep the plan alive.

“Councilman Pilarski and I had a two-hour meeting with the town assessor,” Adamczyk told about 75 people who attended the board’s regular business meeting. “I know I made a mistake. My logic was wrong. I thought we would be helping the seniors and veterans. We would be hurting them. That’s how it works. I needed to make it right, and that’s why Brian and I sponsored the resolution and put it on the agenda tonight.”

The approved resolution allows the contract with Emminger, Newton, Pigeon & Magyar Inc. to extend through July, giving the firm ample time to complete its work on the project. The board is expected to begin working on a plan to implement the townwide revaluation of residential properties in a month, said Pilarski.

A property assessment is one of the factors used by local governments and school districts to determine the amount of property taxes. A reassessment is generally done to ensure that all properties in a community are given an accurate value. When that is done, the equalization rate – which also helps determine a tax bill – is set at 100%.

Supervisor Diane Benczkowski and Councilwoman Linda Hammer voted against the resolution, Benczkowski reiterating her concerns about the town’s high property taxes.

“My goal was to cut taxes because we are the highest-taxed municipality,” the supervisor said when she released her 2020 budget proposal earlier this month. “I did not want to increase levies at all.”

Nowak argued for the reassessment in September, when the board voted 4-2 to nullify the four-year $590,000 contract. The town ended up paying $120,000 for work completed from April through October.

“I did everything I could in making the case that townwide assessment was good because it assured fair and equitable taxation,” said Nowak.

Lawmakers are seeking to return Cheektowaga’s equalization rate to 100% after an increase in residential home sales brought it from 93% in 2018 to 85% in 2019.

“We’re down to 85%, said Kaminski, who lives on Losson Road. “A $100,000 home is being assessed at $85,000. As the equalization rate drops, the tax rate goes up, and taxpayers are getting treated unfairly.”

Pilarski agreed.

“The longer we wait, the bigger that gap gets for the resident who has not had an assessment at all, so we’re only digging a bigger hole for that person,” said Pilarski. “It’s the fair thing to do, and we got that after we sat down with the assessor.”

Published in The Buffalo News, Oct. 23, 2019

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