Tax Assessment

Dear Islanders,

It’s property assessment time! But before you attack town hall with pitch forks and torches, please allow me to try and explain why we do this, why it’s important, and why it may even be beneficial to you. I’ll try to keep my comments short and simple, because it can get really complex. 

We do this because we are required to do so by law

New York State requires towns like ours to do an assessment once every 3 to 5 years. They actually would prefer it if we did it every year. But we’re not going to do that. In fact, after this year, we will take a couple years off. And getting a full assessment done again this year will help guarantee that we stay at 100% valuation. 

100% valuation is a good thing

100% valuation means we have a pretty good idea about what your home (and everyone else’s home) is actually worth. In other words, we are not just relying on what is known as an “equalization rate,” which is not much more than a blind guess. You might argue an assessment is not much more than an educated guess. But a professional has at least looked at your property, compared it with other homes, and followed an objective set of standards to try and accurately value it.

Knowing what our homes are actually worth (again, 100% valuation) is important for a number of reasons. Let’s say, for example, you are looking to sell your home. If your home and every other home in your neighborhood are assessed accurately, you’re more likely to get the right price for it. Or let’s say the value of your property is actually less than you might think (which was revealed to be the case for some homes after the last assessment). Would you really want to continue to pay taxes based on an inaccurate value? 

The answer to that question is “no.” Because while the assessment is about value and not taxes, the two things are obviously not unrelated. Everyone knows that a higher assessment value may lead to more taxes. But please remember, if your house was overvalued in the past, there is no way to claw the extra taxes you paid back. That money is gone forever. Just remember that our taxes are ultimately set by the School District, County and Town.  Your assessment has nothing to do with the tax levy.  Nonetheless, there is a way however, to dispute your valuation if you think we got it wrong.  

You will have multiple chances to question your valuation

When you get the notice in the mail stating the assessed value of your home, it will have a phone number on the top, which you can call to set up an appointment to come in and speak directly to the appraisers who are working on the assessment. Regarding this, please remember that the assessors are just trying to do their job and the people working at Town Hall are your neighbors. If I may kindly ask, even if the number you see seems outrageous to you, when you come in please be kind. No one wants to be yelled at, and I can say confidently that our Town Assessors will do everything in their power to hear your opinion and check the accuracy of your assessment. If you feel they haven't, please call my office.

So, if you have questions or disagree with your assessment, Step 1 is an informal talk with our appraisers. Step 2 is to file a Complaint on Real Property Assessment. Complaint hearings will take place the 4th Tuesday of May at Town Hall. If you are still not satisfied, Step 3 is to ask for a more formal “SCAR” hearing (Small Claims Assessment Review), which will take place in various attorneys’ offices appointed by the courts. I know, it's a terribly troubling acronym, but it’s another opportunity for you to make sure your voice is heard and we get your assessment right.

If I could, I would cut taxes to zero and give everyone free chocolate bars and lemonade. 

Assessment time is not fun. It’s not fun for the people at Town Hall and it’s no fun for you. And taxes (which may fluctuate depending on your valuation) are even worse. Sometimes I wish we lived in a world where everything was free, every day was Saturday, and all we did all day was go to block parties and amusement parks. But we all know, to enjoy any of those things, we need to deal with reality. And property assessments are a part of reality.

Like I said, we are required to do it. It will give you the security that the value of your home is based on objective standards, it will ensure you never overpay taxes, and it will give anyone coming to Grand Island to purchase your home the same surety that things are what they seem. And once more, if we get it wrong, or you think we get it wrong, come in and discuss it with us. Together, we can hopefully work it out. 

With best regards,

Nate