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Half of residents get lower assessments under reval

When reassessment notices begin landing in City of Lockport mailboxes today, the news will be pretty good for many property owners.

City Assessor Joseph Macaluso told the Common Council on Wednesday that the assessments are going down on about half of the city's 6,535 residential properties.

If the new assessments had been in use when this year's tax bills were issued, Macaluso said, 17 percent of city homeowners would have saved more than $500 on their combined city, county and school taxes.

Another 12 percent of homeowners would have saved between $300 and $500; 17 percent would have paid between $100 and $300 less in taxes. Macaluso said 19 percent would have seen little change, with tax bills between $100 more and $100 less.

The new assessments would have meant tax loads increasing by more than $500 for 13 percent of residents. Eight percent would have seen increases of $300 to $500, and 12 percent would have paid between $100 and $300 more.

Business property owners are harder hit by revaluation. Forty percent of commercial properties and 33 percent of industrial properties would have seen taxes rise by $500 or more if the new assessments had been available a year ago.

Overall, homeowners' share of the tax load will drop from 70 percent to 68 percent, while the commercial and industrial share rises from 22 percent to 24 percent. Utilities, railroads, vacant land and the city's five remaining farm parcels account for the rest.

This is the first citywide revaluation in 10 years. The letters arriving today will include the impact the new valuation would have on the recipient's tax bill if the tax levies stayed the same for next year.

They won't, of course; the Lockport School District already has a proposed 2011-12 budget that increases the amount to be collected in taxes by 4.89 percent.

The letters will include a number to call to make an appointment for an informal meeting from Monday through May 14 with an appraiser from KLW Group, the Amherst company the city hired to set the values. Its staffers will have the power to change the figures at the meetings.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said dissatisfied property owners should not call him or Macaluso.

Those who still aren't satisfied after their informal meetings will be able to file a formal grievance with the Board of Assessment Review, which meets June 21.

Macaluso said the new valuations will be posted on the city's website at www.elockport.com. He said the data, including the real estate sales information used to calculate it, will be there and in the third-floor reference room of Lockport Public Library, 23 East Ave.

"People will be able to argue at the end of the day. The citizen board will be open to change," Mayor Michael W. Tucker promised.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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