Falls Reassessment Plan Slowing Down

It appears the planned citywide property reassessment in Niagara Falls, the first in 14 years, is not necessarily a done deal just yet after many taxpayers voiced strong opposition to the plan at last Tuesday’s public hearing in council chambers.

“People were obviously concerned,” said Council President Andrew Touma on Wednesday.  “We’re concerned.  We reassured them that they would be part of the process and we’re just not going to rush into it.”

In addition to the heat from opponents who fear the reassessment is just a plan to raise their taxes, city officials also need to find a million dollars or so to pay for it, and as of now, no funding source has been identified.

“We’re looking for about a million dollars,” said Touma, adding among possible funding sources are grant money and possibly money from the state through the city’s restructuring board.  But as of now, there is no money.  So what’s next?

“We’re at the beginning of our journey,” said Touma, “and we need to talk to a lot of people.”  

But while City Assessor James Bird told Tuesday’s crowd that the reassessment is needed “to level the playing field,” most people who came to City Hall we’re not buying it and lawmakers, from the mayor on down, have a lot of selling to do to move the process forward any time soon.

“We’re definitely slowing it down and nothing is imminent,” said Touma, adding if there’s no money found to pay for it, that could stop the reassessment in its tracks. 

Present at Tuesday’s public hearing in addition to the council were Assessor Bird, representatives from the state’s office of Real Property Tax Services, and representatives from GAR Associates, a real estate valuation contractor.  Officials insist that homeowners are paying more than their fair share vs. commercial properties under the current system, 91 percent to 56 percent, but despite the efforts to explain the upside of the revaluation as they see it, residents just are not buying it.

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