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Town officials assess request to move up taxable status date

Some town assessors want to reschedule the preparation of tax rolls, giving property owners more time to grieve their taxes but meaning snow birds must be on their toes next year to retain the exemptions that save them money.

A majority of members in the Erie County Assessors' Association wants to put Erie County's towns on the tax-roll schedule followed by the other New York counties that don't have their own state-approved tax act.

The assessors recently voted, 14-10, to recommend that a key date -- "the valuation and taxable status date" -- move up from May 1 to the widely used March 1.

That's the snapshot date when properties are valued for the year. An addition to a house, for example, would not be added to that year's tax rolls if only the foundation has been laid by March 1.

March 1 also would become the deadline to apply for the enhanced STAR exemption given to low-income senior citizens.

But will seniors, especially those yet to return from Florida, miss the earlier deadline next year if the County Legislature agrees to move it?

"You definitely are going to have taxpayers who are going to miss that date in the first year," said Joseph Maciejewski, Erie County's director of real property tax services.

He's urging the County Legislature to keep the schedule the way it is.

"My position is, it's not broke," he said.

"I would agree with Joe that the system isn't broke, but the system could be much better," said Hamburg Assessor Robert Hutchinson. He and other advocates say the change would let assessors help senior citizens apply for exemptions in the fall, rather than the spring.

The change would give assessors more time to ready the tax rolls each year. And it would give property owners more time to decide whether to challenge their assessments on Grievance Day, which would be moved from the first Tuesday in June to the fourth Tuesday in May.

The final tax rolls would still be completed by July 1 -- the same as now.

The tax roll schedule was last updated in Erie County in 2001, and some towns want lawmakers to keep things as they are.

The Boston Town Board, for example, approved a statement mentioning that Grievance Day would take place too close to Memorial Day, when many people take vacations. The board also said many residents, especially seniors, are accustomed to filing for their exemptions by May 1 "and may not understand that the date has changed."

The Cheektowaga Town Board also opposes the change -- significant because five county legislative districts reach into the town.

The Legislature's Finance and Management Committee was undecided about the change during a meeting last week. If the panel and the full Legislature agree to change the schedule, it would require the State Legislature to agree to revise the Erie County Tax Act.

email: mspina@buffnews.com

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