North Tonawanda Property Reassessment Still in Limbo After Two Public Meetings

The North Tonawanda Common Council originally approved a bond for $651,300 to appraise the value of real property within and for the city for assessment purposes at its April 25 council meeting. However, at its meeting on June 6, the council reneged on the property reassessment project, stating in a letter to the city clerk that its reason for doing so appeared to be a lack of transparency and public input regarding Mayor Austin Tylec’s proposed reassessment plan.

Council President Frank DiBernardo, who formerly served on the city’s Board of Assessment and Review, said in June, “We are not ready for the reassessment. We asked the mayor and the city assessor to set up public meetings to educate residents before we move forward with this. We don’t want to continue the process until city hall follows the wishes of the council.”

In accordance with the Council’s requirements, public meetings on property reassessments were held on Sept. 28 and Oct. 12 in the North Tonawanda City School District. The meetings were held to educate residents on property reassessment – what it is and what it does. But the NT Council has still not made a decision to move forward and the project is in limbo.

Cindy Baire, a representative of real estate appraiser GAR Associates LLC, spoke at the May 9 council meeting on the need for reassessment and how it could benefit both residents and businesses. She also led the public meetings on Sept. 28 and Oct. 12. GAR Associates successfully completed reassessments in both Erie and Niagara counties, including the City of Tonawanda and the City and Town of Lockport, earlier this year.

“It’s basically a redistribution of tax burden, and no additional taxes are raised,” Baire said. “The last reassessment was done in 2009. Taxes most likely have risen since 2009 with no change in assessed values. Each year the city and the school district along with the county create budgets and levies that are distributed and collected through the property assessments regardless of reassessment. Currently residents are paying a disproportionate share based on market values. Reassessment puts everyone in an even playing field and makes sure everyone pays their fair share,” she said.

In a flyer distributed at the meeting, GAR Associates stated that according to NYS Real Property Tax Law Section 305, all properties must be assessed uniformly; 100% full market value assessment is the most easily understood. The current senior STAR exemption value is $44,700 and at 100% the senior STAR exemption value will be around $88,000.

“Taxes gone up because of budgets and levies but property values haven’t gone up. Not all properties appreciate and depreciate at the same rate. Some properties go up faster and some slower. It’s not across the board. It depends on property type, location and condition. Commercial properties are undervalued and the city assessor can’t just raise their value. By reassessing properties we can ensure that taxes are fairly distributed. Full value puts everyone in an even playing field. Some taxes will go up, some will go down and some will stay the same,” added Baire.

People commonly assume that properties get reassessed at the time they are sold, noted Baire. But the property value is independent of the market value. Property value is used to assess taxes while market value determines the selling price of a property.

“The Council approved the $650,000 earlier this year. They wanted two public meetings, and that’s done. But they are still delaying this process. They are the ones who can make the decision. It has nothing to do with me, the treasurer or the city attorney. They are confusing the people and it’s not fair to the residents,” said Mayor Austin Tylec.

Council President DiBernardo did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Source: Ken-Ton Bee

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