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May 10, 2013 - 7:32am

Some business property owners shocked by re-assessment, but process is flexible, city says

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business.

For the first time since 2005, Batavia's commercial property owners are getting their parcels re-assessed and the effort has been greeted with some decidedly mixed reviews.

With some property owners being told their initial re-assessment shows an increase in value of 55 percent to 400 percent -- adding $70,000 or $95,000 or $120,000 per parcel -- there is a bit of a sticker shock.

Re-assessing commercial property when it hasn't been done for eight years isn't an easy process, explained Rhonda Saulsbury, the city's assessor. There are a number of factors to consider and the initial re-assessment is sometimes based, admittedly, on incomplete information.

That makes it important for property owners to help fill in the blanks for the assessor's office.

"The goal here is to keep property values as fair as possible citywide," Saulsbury said in an e-mail. "Without going through this process (after 8 years) that wouldn’t be possible. I have also reduced a great number of assessments citywide resulting from the same methodologies. I do not hesitate to make an adjustment down when given reasonable information to substantiate the change in value.

"Until someone reaches out to me with an issue," she added, "I can’t fix it."

Local property owners have confirmed that after responding to the initial re-assessment letter to the city and providing more evidence about the status of their buildings, Saulsbury has adjusted, and even rescinded the increase in value.

One local businessman with at least two commercial properties downtown was actually notified that the value of one property was reduced. He didn't complain about that re-assessment.

Another property owner said his assessment only increased 10 percent.

So while some property owners are being hit hard, the impact isn't uniform.

The criteria for reassessment is almost an endless list, Saulsbury said, and includes location, property use, rentable space, income generated, building updates, additions, demolitions and deferred maintenance.

The assessor, from just looking at the building, can't know all of these details, which is why property owner feedback is an important part of the process.

If a property value increases substantially, she said, the assessor's office believes there's a reason for it -- such as a former warehouse being converted to office space, but it's still important for a property owner to clarify any concerns.

City Manager Jason Molino said the process is intended to be one in which property owners provide feedback on the assessment.

"Review procedure and phone numbers are included in the notices sent to property owners that receive a change in their assessment, as we encourage an open door policy to anyone with a question or concern," Molino said.

Jim Rosenbeck
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This is how it should work. "If the city has a question or concern about my assessment, I want the city to know that I encourage an open door policy. However, until the city reaches out with an issue regarding my current assessment, I can't fix it."
There really must be a better way. Unfortunately for Mr. Molino, he needs to keep finding sources of revenue for the ever growing costs of government, many of which are contractual obligations and out of his control.

terry paine
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I laughed out loud "but process is flexible".

Robert Brown
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Does anyone know how much commercial property there is in the city of Batavia and Genesee county? How about we close down the assessor's office and knock that inefficient expense out of the local budgets. Charge a reasonable fee per sq. ft. of commercial zoned space and a reasonable fee per sq. ft. of residential zoned space. How much "revenue" would that generate? Break it up further if necessary into space with and without structures. The assessment process is inexact, costly, and blatantly unfair.

Mark Potwora
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They have to raise all these assessments to cover for all the tax abatments the GCEDC gives out to COR and Target.....

Dave Olsen
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That's right Mark. Didn't some small, but vociferous libertarian group predict this kind of thing? Probably a bunch of wing-nuts who didn't know what they were talking about.

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