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Letter: Reassessment formula is unfair to many people

Reassessment formula is unfair to many people

Two overlooked factors in the reassessment formula are the number of years you’ve lived and paid taxes in the town, and “ability to pay,” a widely supported principle in the fairness of taxation. This is evidenced by the country’s long adherence to a progressive tax system. There are winners (real estate agents) and losers (longtime residents on fixed incomes) under the current formula.

For example: In 1980, a both-working married couple buy a home in the town. By 2010, the husband has passed away and the widow is on a single fixed income. Along comes the town’s reassessment. This individual now faces a 33 percent increase or $943 more per year in taxes. That is $78.58 more per month coming from a fixed income budget. There are your “losers.” Yes, there’s STAR, but that’s not enough to cover the increase. In many cases, the only option is to sell. This is exactly why the real estate agents love reassessments. It means more sales at higher prices. There are your “winners.”

I know having income disclosures to determine “ability to pay” would be a logistical nightmare. Remedy: Adopt a formula that many states use, commonly referred to as “homestead.” When you buy a home, you are taxed on the market value of the home, and as the years progress your assessment/taxes can go up only a limited percent. This protects longtime residents from being forced to sell because they lack the ability to pay.

Maybe we can elect representatives who look out for us, rather than for business. Which brings me to ask: How can our taxes be going up so much, when we have acquired more business enterprises in our town? I know they have the ability to pay, but are the new enterprises paying their fair share?

Jerry Cappello

Amherst

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