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Town of Niagara considers first property reassessment since 1991

TOWN OF NIAGARA – Town officials have begun discussing a property reassessment, which Supervisor Lee S. Wallace said would be the first since 1991.

As a result of that time lapse, he told Town Board members last week, there is the possibility of large assessment inequities, with commercial properties greatly undervalued and other properties taxed unfairly.

A reassessment could result in some properties – especially those undergoing recent improvements – facing larger tax bills. However, in light of commercial development along Military Road over the last 25 years – including the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls – one likely outcome of a reassessment would be an increase in the value of commercial land accounting for about 45 percent of the tax rolls, town officials said.

Wallace called reassessment “a very misunderstood process” and said the board needs to “make an educated decision on how to proceed.”

He proposed that the board meet with a representative of GAR Associates of Buffalo in June to set a timeline for the discussion of a reassessment. GAR is expected to coordinate the project, if approved, and hold informational sessions for the public.

The reassessment probably would not affect the tax rolls for at least two years, officials said.

Town Clerk Sylvia C. Virtuoso noted that historically, reassessment is a three-way split, with a third of the property values rising, a third decreasing and the remainder staying roughly the same.

Town Attorney Michael B. Risman said that a reassessment would eventually bring values up to 100 percent. The current equalization rate is about 55 percent. The overall appreciation of commercial land would mean that the “homeowners’ rate should go down,” he added.

Wallace acknowledged that a reassessment would be a painful sell to some property owners – a process he compared to “gradually taking the Band-Aid off.”

Still, the board needs to make “some kind of call” because the current assessments are “unfair to residents,” he said, adding that people can still appeal any new assessments with the town if they are dissatisfied with the new numbers.