Editorial: Cheektowaga, Grand Island must delay, but not avoid, tax reassessments

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Cheektowaga and Grand Island officials are right to delay their property reassessments given the Covid-19 pandemic. But as soon as the pandemic passes, the reassessments should be back on. Regular reassessments are the only way to ensure fair property taxes.

Some residents in Cheektowaga and elsewhere have been beside themselves over reassessments, equating them with higher taxes. Cheektowaga residents “overwhelmed” Town Hall with emails and calls opposing the reassessment, and packed into the Senior Center for the first of two assessment informational sessions earlier this month.

With the pandemic closing offices and making resources more difficult to access, suspending the revaluation made sense. Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski, however, said she thinks the revaluation should be canceled. That is the sort of bone-headed pandering that has gotten municipalities across Western New York into this mess.

Reassessments don’t raise total taxes, they just redistribute the burden to reflect current property values. People who own property in a hot neighborhood may pay more. Other property owners may pay less.

Regular revaluations mean that every property owner pays his or her fair share and avoids the every 10-year or so controversy when residential and commercial properties are reassessed.

Michael Milks, Cheektowaga’s assistant town assessor, correctly attributes the “sticker shock” to the fact that it has been six years since the last townwide reassessment. Approximately 35,000 residential and commercial properties were reassessed this year, Milks said. Partial revaluations occurred in 2015 and 2017.

Postponing revaluations until 2021 makes sense in our Covid-disrupted world.

But don’t wait longer. It irresponsibly creates a bigger problem in the future.

Published by The Buffalo News

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