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Longtime senior homeowners in Buffalo get new tax break

Mike Desmond
New development is pushing up property assessments across Buffalo.

With many Buffalo seniors worried about the impact of the new property re-assessment program on their taxes, the Common Council is moving to cover the entire city with a new tax break.

Using state legislation backed by Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), the Council voted Tuesday to add a tax break for long-term homeowner seniors of limited income in much of the city. It then passed a Home Rule message to Albany to amend the state law on property taxes to cover all of Buffalo.

North District Councilmember Joe Golombek said the senior tax break should be citywide.

"I understand why it's happening, that the concerns that I had with this was that we were only targeting certain areas of the City of Buffalo," he said, "and the concern that I have is that I have people that live in the North District, Black Rock and Riverside that probably would fit in to this category."

The approved plan covers seniors who have owned their homes for at least 25 years and meet income rules. Council President Darius Pridgen said the goal is to keep people in their homes.

"There's going to be a tax bill," Pridgen said. "We're trying to make sure our most vulnerable - I make no excuse for this - we're trying to make sure that those who are over 65, those who have really stayed in Buffalo when many people were leaving out of Buffalo and they stayed in some really tough neighborhoods, we're trying to make sure that they are able to keep their homes."

South District Councilmember Chris Scanlon said the tax break might raise the taxes of some others.

"You have to bring that money in one way or another and, if there is an exemption, then that can alter the tax rate ultimately," Scanlon said, "but I can tell you, though, as a taxpayer myself, I'd be more than happy and more that willing to be paying a little bit extra if I know that that additional money that I'm paying is going to help a senior that might need that assistance."

It is not clear how many people would be covered by the new senior tax break. Some might not apply because their assessment remained the same or was lowered, something true for around one-third of city houses.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.