Town of Lancaster revaluation project completed

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The Town of Lancaster 2020 Revaluation Project has been completed. The two-year long project’s objective was to bring all properties to 100% of the current real estate market value as of July 1, 2019.

New York state has certified the Town of Lancaster at 100%. All inventory was reviewed and updated, if necessary. Thank you to those property owners who returned their data survey sheets so changes could be made ahead of time, where necessary. All sales from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2019 were analyzed for accuracy and eligibility. Some sales (between relatives, for example) are NOT considered useable sales. Based on these sales, new market values were determined for all parcels.

Notices were mailed to property owners indicating the new value with instructions on how to proceed with an informal review if they did not agree with their newly determined market value/assessment. It was at this time, that the coronavirus became an issue.

As directed, Town Hall had to close to the public and our staff had to work from home. The assessor’s office had one staff member in the office each day to take all phone calls. This certainly complicated the process somewhat, but with technology and some innovation and thinking out of the box, residents were offered multiple ways of submitting the paperwork needed to file the informal review application. There were 1,274 informal reviews filed.

Revised notices were mailed out to each property owner, who filed an informal review, including instructions on how to proceed for those still not satisfied with the value. At this time, the assessor is legally no longer permitted to make changes to the tentative roll. New York state has a formal grievance process known as the Board of Assessment Review. There are state mandated forms to file and deadline dates to adhere to.

Given the coronavirus situation, the grievances were conducted by telephone this year. The Board met for two weeks, hearing the grievances, and then they met for an additional two weeks making determinations. There were 560 grievances filed, with an overall reduction (informal and formal review) to the total assessed value of the town of $48,973,021. The final notices were mailed out June 30, 2020.

The final step in the revaluation project is Small Claims Assessment Reviews (SCAR). The hearings are conducted by Erie County and must be filed by Aug. 6, 2020 (30 days after filing of the final roll), and you must have filed a grievance to the Board of Assessment Review to be eligible to participate in the SCAR process.

The property owners who missed any of the state mandated deadlines are eligible to file a grievance next year. Property owners can file grievances in any year that they believe their assessment is not accurate. This can be due to a change in the equalization rate, new construction or demolition, a sale with unique conditions, or if a timely filed exemption has been denied for eligibility reasons.

The new assessed values will be applied to the September 2020 school tax bill, and then the February 2021 Town/County tax bill. For properties located in either the Village of Lancaster or Depew, the new value will be used for the June 2021 Village tax bill.

When we receive the final school tax rates and again in November, when the town and county finalize their tax rates, we will post them on our website, with a comparison to last year and the predicted rates that were illustrated on the assessment notices. The 2020 rates will be lower than the 2019 tax rates due to the revaluation and increase in the overall total taxable values, but they will be higher than the predicted rates, because of the reductions in value during the informal/ formal reviews. For every dollar that is reduced, the remaining property owners must make up. This is because the total taxes collected is dependent on the total assessed value of the town and all exemptions granted. The new 2020 rates will be dependent on the budgets that each taxing jurisdiction adopts.

There were many comments during this process of how the COVID-19 virus will negatively impact the value of real estate. The assessor’s office is continuing to receive all sales on a weekly basis, which are being closely monitored. The sale prices, at this time, indicate that the prices of homes exceed even the newly determined assessments, which were based on values as of July 1, 2019. The office will continue to update all sales on the website regularly.

As always, we welcome any questions you may have regarding any and all aspects of the assessment cycle.

Published by The Lancaster Bee

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