Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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March 13, 2014

Royalton residents upset over new assessments

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — ROYALTON — Properties in the town were assessed this year for the first time since 2008, leaving many residents unhappy with the change notices they received over the past two weeks.

Amelia Wittcop closed on her new home on Miller Road, a 194-acre property, for $149,000 on Feb. 25. Less than 10 days later, she saw the assessed value of the property listed online at $243,000.

"It jumped almost $100,000," she said. "I won't be able to afford it."

Richard Widmer owns an 1850s-era farmhouse with 122 acres across the street from Wittcop on Miller Road. The value of his property rose nearly $70,000, from the $170,000 he paid for it nine years ago to around $240,000, he said. 

"I don't understand how they can jack it up that high," Widmer said.

While some in the town saw a decrease or a moderate increase in the recent assessment of their property value, some saw large increases, especially on farm land. The town had not been assessed since 2008, Supervisor Jennifer Bieber said, because the equalization rate had stayed at 97 percent. 

"There wasn't a need," she said. 

The equalization rate is the percentage of market value at which property in a municipality is assessed, said John Shoemaker, director of Niagara County's Real Property Tax Service. For instance, if two people have the same house, in two different towns — one town having an equalization rate of 100 percent and the other town having an equalization rate of 50 percent — the person in the town with the 50 percent rate will pay twice the amount in property taxes compared to the person in the 100 percent rate town.

In 2012, Royalton's equalization rate fell to 92 percent and the decision was made to have the town revalued, Bieber said, adding that New York State wants municipalities at 100 percent equalization. The state is willing to work with towns who share services, she said, which is what Royalton did, sharing an assessor with the Town of Hartland.

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