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City assessor: Higher market values lead to increase in property assessments

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In light of the frustration expressed at Monday night’s City Council meeting by two Batavia residents over the assessment letters they had received earlier in the day, The Batavian reached out to the city’s assessor for insight into the process of determining a home’s fair market value.

Rhonda Saulsbury, assessor for both the City and Town of Batavia, responding to an email, said that while many factors are considered for comparison purposes, all of a home’s information is run through a computer program prior to conducting a field review.

“The City of Batavia strives to maintain a 100-percent equalization rate — sale price to assessment ratio — which means that we keep our assessments at market value,” Saulsbury said. “To accomplish this, we do yearly revaluation and make adjustments accordingly. Values can adjust due to physical changes and/or market changes.”

Saulsbury said each property is placed into an appraisal software system, comparing the building style, square footage, year built, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and lot size against the recent sales data.

“We then do field review to determine the fair market value based on the aforementioned data,” she added.

She said that each neighborhood within the city is reviewed annually, but “we only update values in those that have experienced an increase in market values, thus we end up ‘rotating’ the neighborhoods.”

“This year we sent out just over 4,300 change-of-assessment notices throughout the city,” she said.

As mentioned at Monday’s meeting, the city canceled this process in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, sales of homes in the $100,000 to $200,000 have been extremely brisk.

“Now, as sale values have continued to climb upwards 20-plus percent above assessments, we are again adjusting assessed values in accordance with New York State Real Property Tax Law guidelines,” Saulsbury advised.

She said property owners have opportunities for assessment review if they believe they could not sell their property for the new assessed market value.

“The procedures to request the review are included with the change-of-assessment-notices (see the link to the previous story below). As at any time, we encourage an open-door policy to anyone with a question or concern,” she said.

Property owners can call 1-866-910-1776 to inquire about the valuation process or informal assessment review process, Saulsbury said, and they also can receive an email with the individual market document that includes the specific sales used for any given property.

If a property owner does not have access to a computer, printer or scanner, all relevant forms can be picked up at the City Clerk’s Office Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Saulsbury also said that the City of Batavia sale and inventory books used to calculate the new assessed values can also be viewed any time in the City Clerk’s Office or at Richmond Memorial Library to help in preparing an Informal Review Application.

Published by The Batavian

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