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Town of Lockport keeps full-value assessment amid rising housing market

LOCKPORT – The town intends to continue its policy of keeping property assessments at full valuation, the Town Board informally decided last week.

The town’s real estate market has been heating up, Councilwoman Patricia Dufour said. Recent sales of properties have often significantly exceeded the assessed valuations of those parcels, which pushes up values for owners of comparable properties.

Dufour said that some houses in the town are being hit hard by the rising market when it comes to the assessment set for tax purposes. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” she said. “It’s painful.”

But Supervisor Marc R. Smith said that if the state Office of Real Property Tax Services couldn’t certify that the town was using full-value assessment, it would apply an equalization rate to every assessment, and taxpayers still wouldn’t see smaller bills.

“I would say the most fair way is to stay at 100 percent,” Smith said.

Town Assessor Jill M. Lederhouse said she sent out 3,272 notices of assessment changes to property owners this spring, including 682 to commercial properties. That’s not an unusual number.

“Three years ago, it was over 5,000,” Lederhouse said.

So far, about 120 homeowners and 65 commercial property owners have asked for informal appeal meetings. Owners who aren’t satisfied with the result of those meetings may file a formal complaint and take it to the Board of Assessment Review on Grievance Day, which is May 26.

Lederhouse said she’s seeing sales that demonstrate the market is cooking. “A parcel that was assessed at $280,000 sold for $1.1 million. Something like that has to be reviewed,” she said.

That was a business property, but the home market is showing the same kind of action. “The sales are coming in 20 percent higher than they’re assessed at,” Lederhouse said.

Why is the town’s real estate market booming?

“Some draws are the Starpoint School District, and in the south end, you have quick access to (Interstate) 990,” Lederhouse said. “The rest of it is, the town runs efficiently. We don’t have a town tax. Our special district rates aren’t that crazy. It’s a pretty good place to live.”

On another matter last week, the Town Board learned that this year’s $4 million projected cost of the South Transit Road waterline replacement project came in $2.28 million under budget.

Town Engineer Robert D. Klavoon said the unspent money, which came from a bond issue, can be redirected to other waterline projects that could be done next year. The board gave him the green light to prepare bidding for 2016 waterline work on Purdy, Slayton Settlement, Leete, Bowmiller and Upper Mountain roads.

The estimated total cost for those roads is $2.35 million, which is over the leftover amount. Klavoon suggested listing Leete Road as an alternate, to be completed if the price isn’t too high for the others.

Klavoon projected another phase of water work in 2017 for Jennifer and O’Connor drives and Wicks and Slayton Settlement roads.

The board also voted to hire four summer workers, two for the Water and Sewer Department and two for the Highway Department. These are full-time jobs that last up to six months and pay $11 an hour, a $1 raise from last year, Smith said.