While the issue of assessments in the Town of Cheektowaga has been a contentious one as of late, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has lauded the municipality for its efforts.
According to Town Assessor Jill Murphy, that department recently reached out to Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski to confirm that the town had successfully completed the requirements for aid for its 2021 Cyclical Reassessment.
“I commend your assessor for maintaining a system of real property tax administration that meets the highest standards set by the state. Such efforts are essential to guarantee equity and fairness to the taxpayers of your municipality,” said Gary Drank, regional director of the state Office of Real Property Tax Services.
“It is an honor to be awarded state aid and for my office to be recognized by New York State for the professional quality of work that we do,” said Murphy. “This is a great accomplishment, and the staff of the assessor’s office as well as myself are very proud of it.”
According to Murphy, the town will receive roughly $75,800 from the state for completing the reappraisal of the 2021 assessment roll. According to Murphy, the award is for the town’s multi-year plan which includes conducting a reappraisal at 100% of market value and meeting the standards set for quality assessment administration.
“Ensuring residents only pay taxes based on the value of their property is the main objective of updating property assessments,” Murphy said. “In today’s economy it is vitally important to maintain a system that closely monitors property assessment equity, to ensure all property is valued uniformly and fairly so that inequities do not exist which could cause one sector of the town to pay more in taxes than they should. New York State Real Property Tax Law requires all properties to be valued uniformly.”
The Town of Cheektowaga conducted a town-wide reassessment project for the 2021 assessment roll following the decision by the town board to adopt a resolution to maintain full value assessments on an annual basis.
Murphy also noted annual review of assessments offers major advantages to property owners such as receiving full value of their exemptions, fewer court challenges, small incremental changes which have less of an impact on escrow accounts, and elimination of large shifts in school and county tax apportionment due to fluctuating equalization rates.
While the Department of Taxation and Finance has praised Murphy’s efforts, not all residents share that enthusiasm for the system and the issue has resulted in several heated meetings of the Town Board with a great deal of resident input.
During meetings held at the beginning of May, a large crowd of residents decried the updates to the assessments, which officials at the time said had increased by an average of 11.5% over the previous year. During the meeting held on May 10, Supervisor Diane Benczkowski said that she was unaware that the maintenance valuations were coming for residents, but other members of the board asserted that was untrue, based on previous communications between board members as well as known facts about the procedures regarding the assessments as set forth by the state.
At that time, Councilmember Brian Pilarski said that Murphy’s actions were appropriate and that she was simply doing her job. He referenced a resolution passed in 2014 by the Town Council which had been passed when the Town decided to move to a full market valuation model.
The resolution stated, in part, ““Resolved that the assessor and/or supervisor be and hereby are authorized and directed to execute any and all documents necessary to effectuate this change,” to maintain full market values.
Murphy also noted that in a defeated resolution which the supervisor had put forward in March aimed to move away from that model, but because it did not pass, the assessor was required by law to keep the roll at 100%.
While some residents have voiced concerns about the rising valuations of their homes, Murphy has noted at several public forums that her office is open to all residents seeking to have their questions answered, and the assessor has further suggested creating educational programming within the municipality so that residents can better understand the implications of their assessments, as well as the process as a whole.
On Tuesday, the assessor said that she has received positive feedback from many residents who have come to her office with concerns, and further stated that she and her staff have, and will continue, to go through individual’s tax information in a thorough fashion so that even if they are still not thrilled with the outcome, they walk away feeling that they have a greater understanding of the situation and as though their concerns have been heard.