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Average tax assessments to rise by 21%

Amherst property owners can expect to see dramatic increases in their property assessments this year, with preliminary, average assessments rising by 21 percent.

However, the majority of Amherst homeowners may actually see a corresponding decline in their tax bills, according to the appraisal firm valuing the town's properties.

Those likely to see the biggest tax bill leaps are owners of commercial buildings or condominium residents, according to the initial findings by KLW Municipal, which has been working on the reassessment for nearly a year.

"This is one of those reassessment cycles where almost every property has been field inspected," said Supervisor Satish Mohan. "This is the first time that all the 71 neighborhoods and every home has been touched, and therefore, this assessment is as fair and equitable as possible."

Not everyone is likely to see it that way.

"People are going to be upset," Town Assessor Harry Williams said.

Upscale condominium and patio-home owners, who consider the tax advantages of owning condo units to be a major asset, may be particularly distressed.

However, town officials are quick to point out that just because assessments go up does not mean taxes will rise correspondingly.

Mohan said he is committed to keeping the tax levy -- the total amount of revenue the town collects in property taxes -- level next year. Meanwhile, the Williamsville Central School District is considering a t 2 percent increase in its school tax levy.

If both remain true, a majority of residential homeowners would see an actual reduction in their tax rate -- the amount of taxes collected per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Assuming town, county and school property tax levies are unchanged from this year to next, KLW's preliminary findings indicate:

65 percent of residential homeowners would see their property taxes stay the same or decline. Residential assessments would go up by an average of 17 percent.

Homeowners likely to see significant increases are those who live in newer homes that might have been assessed solely on land value, those adding on to their homes and those who live in high-demand neighborhoods, Mohan said.

83 percent of condominium owners would see their tax bills rise, with a quarter of all condominium owners seeing increases of $500 or more.

Williams and KLW Municipal President Robert Koszarek said it has been difficult to assess condominiums in the past because condominium assessments need to be based on hard-to-find, comparable rental rates. That led to many condos being undervalued.

But last year, KLW found property comparisons that justified higher assessments, Koszarek said.

53 percent of commercial properties would be subject to tax increases, with 44 percent seeing hikes of $500 or more. In contrast, a third of commercial properties would see tax bill declines of $500 or more. Overall, commercial property assessments would rise by 37 percent.

Letters will be going out to all property owners within the next two weeks, giving residents information on how 2009 property tax bills might change.


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