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Cheektowaga homeowners livid about new home reassessments learning steps to challenge

Posted at 6:53 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 08:50:28-04

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — People living in the Town of Cheektowaga are livid.

Over the weekend the town sent out notices to neighbors with a new assessed value of homes and the estimated tax increase residents will see.

Hundreds packed a Cheektowaga senior center to express their concerns with the unanticipated fees.

"On the page my taxes would go up over $1000 a year, and being retired and on fixed income that's a big hit to take," said Cheektowaga resident Frank Zeczak.

People that spoke to 7 Eyewitness News said their homes' assessed values increased anywhere from $50,000 to more than $100,000 in just a year. A few months ago some homeowners in Buffalo complained about a higher home reassessment too.

The town sent out assessments based on the 100% assessed value of the home rather than 85% — as done in years past.

The main concern for many is higher taxes for people living on fixed incomes in the Town of Cheektowaga.

The Town of Cheektowaga hired the appraisal firm ENPM to do the assessment.

John Zukowkski, of ENPM, told us this was a year-long process where appraisers would go and take photos of home exteriors, review recent sales, and put it that into a model that would churn out assessment values. Now, the process is beginning to challenge the assessments. Informal review sessions will begin next week and run through the first week in April.

You can set up an appointment to meet with an assessor one-on-one.

Here’s what you should be putting together:

  • photos of the interior of your home
  • information about recent home assessment that you may have had done independently
  • information about recent sales of homes comparable to yours

7 Eyewitness News sent questions to Cheektowaga Town Assessor Jill Murphy, this is an excerpt of that email with questions edited for clarity.

Is an assessment mandatory under the New York State Real Property Tax Law?
Reassessment is not mandatory under New York State Real Property Tax Law, however, NYS strongly encourages all towns to assess at full market value.

Why did you recommend the town do an assessment?
The recommendation that the Town conduct a town wide reassessment is due to the vastly changing real estate market and to ensure fair distribution of taxes for all residents.

What effect does 100% assessment have, as opposed to 85% assessment?
Full market valuation (100%) give the resident full transparency – meaning that when they get their tax bill they see what the value of the property is without having to do any calculations. Many residents do not understand or are confused by the equalization process. Also, senior citizens who are low income or any resident that has an exemption will get the full value of the exemption – when we assess at 85% the exemptions are also calculated at 85%.

Do you anticipate many people will see changes during the final assessments in July?
Typically, we see assessment adjustments by both the Informal Hearings and Grievance Hearings especially in cases where the interior of the house has deferred maintenance or damage that would negatively impact the selling price if it were to be put on the market. The number or amount of changes that occur vary from year to year so I couldn’t give a reliable estimate at this point in the process.

Deputy Town Supervisor Christine Adamczyk said she voted "yes" for the reassessment based off the Town Assessor's recommendation.

"My mother who lives by herself, 80 years old, her assessment went up also," she said. "I mean I also feel for these people, I get it, but the fair thing to do was to do a town-wide assessment, again it hasn't been done since 2014."

Town of Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski released the following statement to 7 Eyewitness News to state her opposition to the town assessments that were recently completed:

“At the October 22nd Town Council meeting, I stood with Councilwoman Linda Hammer and voted tocancel the town’s contract with an appraisal firm that was conducting our town-wide 100% reassessment. If this contract had been terminated as I had fought so hard to do, there would have been no reassessments at all.

Furthermore, last August I attempted to cancel commercial assessments for the same reason. I knew that our residents and businesses would be negatively impacted by artificially high property values caused by an overheated housing market.

This is especially true of our seniors and working families. Unfortunately, in both cases, the majority of the town board decided to move ahead with both reassessments. While I respect the difference of opinion from my fellow board members, I want the record to be correct that I foresaw the public harm and outrage that we are now seeing since many Cheektowagans are now facing a personal crisis over these extravagant new assessments.”

Formal assessment challenges will happen in May and decisions will be mailed in early July.

Call the town assessor’s office at 716-686-3440 for more information.