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Amherst is doing right by its property-owners in ensuring that assessments are accurate

Homeowners in Amherst may groan over the likelihood of their property being reassessed.

The timing never feels quite right and the bigger monthly bill that always seems to result is never easy to accept. But homeowners perhaps should not complain since their homes may be worth more.

As recently reported, a hot housing market in parts of Amherst is necessitating an assessment update. Some houses are selling faster and for more money than they were assessed, according to Town Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein.

Initially the town planned to hire a consultant to examine a minimum of 5,000 residential properties by early May, in addition to the 7,300 homes the town originally planned to send notices to about reassessments this year. That has changed.

Now, it appears that the entire town’s 44,000 parcels could be reassessed, although not until next year.

Weinstein is expected to take the issue up with the Town Board next week and seek a consultant to help the Assessor’s Office complete the revaluation by March 1, 2016.

The change in valuation was more of a trending concept, as Weinstein recently said. Reassessing the whole town’s parcels would be needed in order to maintain fairness. Officials need time in which to accomplish that goal. This broad examination hasn’t been done since 2009, although the town has done updates.

Again, this is not bad news. Many homes are worth more. That knowledge should ease any shock of a higher assessment. Moreover, this is about fairness and that is the goal of assessments.

It is important to separate the issue of taxes and assessments. Assessors are not concerned with raising taxes. That is not their job. Taxes are the concern of those elected officials who determine the amount. Assessments simply distribute the taxes among property owners.

Weinstein has lowered the tax levy by a couple million dollars the last five years, and if he lowers it again by a small amount in the sixth year it will basically be a redistribution of taxes. This is why it is important that assessors provide fair assessments.

Absent that fairness, a property owner may pay more than his or her share in taxes to make up for those who are under-assessed. And given the rate at which different properties increase in value, poorer people typically end up subsidizing those who are wealthier.

Higher residential values in Amherst are nothing new. Its enviable high-performing school system, amenities, services and housing stock make it an attractive alternative for young families and seniors alike.

There are plenty of examples of houses worth more, a trend pointing in the right direction.