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Jan 02, 2020

Another reassessment on the horizon for all 44,000 Amherst properties

Amherst is planning to reassess the value of all 44,000 properties in the town in 2021 or 2022.

The Town Board on Dec. 16 voted to seek bids from companies to perform a townwide reassessment.

The town expects to issue a request for proposals this week and get responses by January, Town Assessor David Marrano said, and then decide when to proceed.

“It looks like we’re definitely going to do it,” he said. “We need to.”

Amherst Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa said the reassessment likely would take place in 2022.

Some of the possible delay, Marrano said, comes from the fact that only a handful of firms here and across the state perform reassessments for towns and cities and those companies are kept busy.

The best practice to ensure properties are valued accurately is reassessing every four years or so, Marrano said.

Marrano emphasized that reassessments are not intended to generate higher property tax revenues. Only government bodies can do that by voting to raise the property tax levy. Reassessments are meant to ensure all property owners pay their fair share of taxes. After a reassessment, some properties rise in value, some stay the same and some fall.

Amherst most recently conducted a full reassessment in 2017, after waiting eight years to do so. Following that effort, thousands of owners challenged their higher property values.

Hundreds continued those challenges in state Supreme Court or Small Claims Court and sought tens of millions of dollars in assessment reductions. The town aggressively defended its assessments, though many cases were settled.

Marrano in 2018 said continued changes in property values in the fast-growing Amherst housing market merited another reassessment as soon as 2020. Many homes were selling for more than their reassessed value, while some were selling for less.

Amherst’s equalization rate reflects the changes. The town’s equalization rate – the state’s way of measuring the level of assessment in a particular municipality – was at 100 immediately following the 2017 reassessment.

That meant the town was assessing property at 100% of its market value. The rate is now at 95% and is likely to slip again to the low 90s when the state issues the latest rates in early 2020, Marrano said.

That’s a sign houses are selling at prices higher than their assessed value, he said.

The town in 2018 opted not to move forward with another reassessment, but town officials said the need for the recalculation only has increased.

“In order to establish equity in the town, I do think it’s important to look at a reassessment,” said Councilwoman Deborah Bruch Bucki, adding the earliest it is likely to take effect is 2022.

Marrano estimates a townwide reassessment would cost Amherst $600,000 to $700,000, with the possibility of some offsetting state aid.

Source:  The Buffalo News

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