Tax-exempt levels in many Erie Niagara localities exceed state average - The Buffalo News

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Tax-exempt levels in many Erie Niagara localities exceed state average

Many cities and towns in Erie and Niagara counties have larger percentages of their property values exempted from taxes than the state average.

Twenty-seven percent of real property value across New York is exempt from county property taxes, while some cities and towns in Erie and Niagara counties far exceed that.

In Buffalo, for instance, 37 percent of real property is exempt from county taxes, and in the Town of Alden, home of the Erie County Correctional Facility and the vacant Erie County Home, 39 percent of the town’s total property value is tax-exempt.

In Niagara County, the numbers are even more dramatic. Nearly 80 percent of the Town of Somerset’s total property value is tax-exempt, while 69 percent is tax-exempt in the Town of Lewiston, and 44 percent is exempt in the City of Niagara Falls.

Payment-in-lieu of taxes arrangements, or PILOTs, on a power plant in Somerset, a state-run power plant in Lewiston and state-owned land in Niagara Falls contribute to those percentages.

Though some partial tax exemptions are popular with the public, such as for senior citizens or veterans, public officials note that when some property taxes are exempted, other property owners have to pick up more of the financial load.

“In an era of limited resources, the impact of property tax exemptions complicates the financial picture of our local governments,” said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

Property taxes supplied local governments with 39 percent of their revenue in 2012, the largest single revenue source.

DiNapoli issued a report Wednesday on different property tax exemptions and how they are applied across the state, using 2012 data from the state Office of Real Property Tax Services.

The percentage of exempt real estate in Erie County is 24 percent, and in Niagara County, 36 percent, the report said.

Privately and publicly held properties can be fully or partially exempt for a number of reasons, from tax abatements granted by industrial development agencies to buildings that are used for governmental, educational or religious purposes.

“I do believe it’s time to look at the policy we’ve been operating under,” said City of Buffalo Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder.

The total taxable property value in the city has climbed by 1 percent in the last year, which is a step in the right direction, he said.

In addition to more private developers investing in the city, the administration of Mayor Byron W. Brown has initiated the sale of city properties that were generating no tax revenue, such as the Webster Block, which is being privately developed into a hotel and ice-rink complex, and land near Erie Basin Marina for a hotel and office complex by Ellicott Development.

In Amherst, where 25 percent of the town’s total property value is exempt from county taxes, the exemptions create a greater burden on homeowners, said Mark A. Manna, a Town Board member and candidate for supervisor.

“It means everybody else in town is picking up the difference,” Manna said.

Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein noted that while the University at Buffalo is tax-exempt, and the town bears the cost of providing fire service to the campus, the university has driven a lot of private developments around the campus that are taxable.

“There’s pros and cons,” Weinstein said.

With the total market value of all real estate in New York State pegged at $2.5 trillion, DiNapoli said, $680 billion is exempt from property taxes. Besides federal, state, local and foreign government-owned land being exempt, other major categories of exempt properties include religious organizations, nonprofits, Indian reservations and universities.

The state’s popular School Tax Relief Program, or STAR, is the rare exemption, in that it does not create an additional direct burden on local governments because the state reimburses school districts for the exemption.

Percentage of value of all properties that are exempt from county taxes in Buffalo Niagara regionErie County

City of Buffalo 36.90

City of Lackawanna 28.45

City of Tonawanda 16.63

Town of Alden 39.25

Town of Amherst 25.41

Town of Aurora 17.88

Town of Boston 8.96

Town of Brant 14.53

Town of Cheektowaga 21.33

Town of Clarence 8.41

Town of Colden 7.36

Town of Collins 35.32

Town of Concord 21.36

Town of Eden 14.90

Town of Elma 13.99

Town of Evans 23.62

Town of Grand Island 13.83

Town of Hamburg 18.22

Town of Holland 18.89

Town of Lancaster 15.91

Town of Marilla 8.44

Town of Newstead 14.59

Town of North Collins 17.38

Town of Orchard Park 20.05

Town of Sardinia 12.72

Town of Tonawanda 32.85

Town of Wales 10.04

Town of West Seneca 18.04

County Total: 23.62

Niagara County

City of Lockport 14.52

City of Niagara Falls 44.25

City of North Tonawanda 17.21

Town of Cambria 27.26

Town of Hartland 8.90

Town of Lewiston 68.82

Town of Lockport 13.53

Town of Newfane 15.83

Town of Niagara 40.33

Town of Pendleton 12.57

Town of Porter 10.12

Town of Royalton 10.54

Town of Somerset 78.08

Town of Wheatfield 19.40

Town of Wilson 10.29

County Total: 35.85

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