Buffalo homeowners gear up for downside of rising values

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It is the dark cloud that comes with the silver lining Western New York homeowners have been enjoying in recent years. Buffalo is a one of the nation’s hot real estate markets, but higher home prices are pushing up property taxes.

The storm cloud is hanging over many older and long-time homeowners in Buffalo now that the Queen City’s first citywide revaluation in 10 years could blow up their tax bills far beyond what they can afford.

Buffalo homeowners should start getting their new revalued property tax bills in July, and for many it is going to be a shock.

Tax fairness groups such as the Buffalo Property Tax Coalition have been gearing up for the downside of rising property values.

City and state lawmakers have responded with as many as twelve programs that provide exemptions for homeowners with limited resources.

Sarah Wooton of the Partnership for the Public Good, says the more important tax breaks have a limited effect, “We would want to see the age restriction gone, and we really want it to be an income based owner-occupied partial tax exemption for homes where they have seen this great increase in assessments.”

Buffalo’s Commissioner of Assessment and Taxation, Jason Shell said, the reassessment is about taxpayer fairness and equity, “The reassessment doesn’t necessarily mean you will pay more in taxes.”

to make sure property owners who have not been paying their fair share start.. and in some cases those who have been paying too much, get an adjustment.

State lawmakers have allowed the city to freeze assessments for Fruit Belt homeowners and 6 other census tracts, but Wooton said other parts of the city could use a break, too.

“We really need to think about a solution that will ultimately address the problem instead of just addressing for a very few people.”

Csr. Shell advises homeowners in hardship cases, the city will work with you, “Our concern is that everybody only pays their fair share and moreover any concern that people have please contact us if there is a way we can assist you. We do have programs available that they might not be aware of.”

Shell said homeowners who believe they are being over-assessed can ask for an informal review, or file a grievance with city’s Board of Assessment Review. Homeowners who cannot afford the higher taxes, can set up a court-supervised payment plan.

For help avoiding a property tax crisis that could lead to foreclosure, the Shell is directing city taxpayers Department of Assessment and Taxation’s Tax Rate Information line at 851-5733, or click this link.

Published by WIVB-TV

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