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WARD PROPOSES STARTING OVER ON REASSESSMENTS

One Amherst lawmaker has an idea about what to do with soaring property tax assessments -- throw them out and start all over again.

Council Member Daniel J. Ward filed a resolution Tuesday asking the Town Board to declare the recent assessments "null and void" and to revalue all 43,000 parcels in Amherst "pursuant to a coherent written policy" approved by the board.

According to Ward, the reassessment figures released earlier this year in letters to town residents are "arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law and flawed."

Ward's proposal is unlikely to pass, but it fuels the uproar over the town's assessments.

"That is not for us to do. We don't order reassessments," Council Member Jane S. Woodward said. "The first question is whether it's legal, and then you have to ask how much it's going to cost."

Nearly half of the town's property owners received notices of assessment changes this year, in many cases increases of 30 percent or more.

Assessor Harry E. Williams blames the town's fast-paced real estate market and says his office is following state law.

But 200 angry and frustrated residents showed up Tuesday evening for a special hearing on assessments called by Ward. Some of them demanded Williams' job; others wanted to know why several Town Board members did not attend the three-hour session.

Supervisor Susan J. Grelick excused herself, saying she had a previous commitment. Deputy Supervisor Michael G. McGuire said he, too, had another commitment, while Council Member Shelly Schratz is on vacation.

Woodward and fellow Council Member William O'Loughlin attended the hearing but remained in the audience.

That left only Council Member William L. Kindel to face the crowd with Ward.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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