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Erie County Comptroller Pushes for Centralized Property Assessments

By Joyce Kryszak

Bufffalo, NY – A statewide push to consolidate property assessments is getting some steam from a new report released yesterday by Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz.

The report shows that 30 municipalities spend upwards of eight million dollars to assess properties with 150 of their own elected or appointed assessors.

Poloncarz said that is about double what it would cost the county to do the job under a unified system. He said the state is offering incentives that would make it even more cost effective. Poloncarz said it would also be more fair.

He said it could also end confusing equalization rates used to calculate school district taxes. The complicated formula is used to balance out property assessments - that vary between 49 percent and 100 percent of a house's value - depending upon the municipality.

Poloncarz said assessments should be at full value and be reevaluated annually or triennially. He said most assessments are terribly outdated, with some towns, including Tonawanda, Grand Island and West Seneca, not having done re-evaluations since 1986.

Poloncarz said it all adds to the state's reputation as having a mired tax structure. Although 33 states have countywide systems, only two counties in New York, Nassau and Tompkins, have consolidated assessments.

The comptroller recommends either an in-house county assessment division or a private contractor. He said both would save money. But both would also need legislative and administrative approval, as well as public approval on a referendum. Polocarz admits it would be a tough sell.

In January, County Executive Chris Collins requested $50,000 of state funding that would help study the benefits and viability of centralized county assessments.

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