Buffalo's new property tax commissioner gets to work

Jun 12, 2019

There is a new man in what will soon be Buffalo City Hall's toughest job: commissioner of assessment and taxation.

Within a few weeks, the letters will go out across the city telling property owners what their new tax assessment will be. It is widely believed that the numbers will reflect rising property prices and hit many neighborhoods very hard, particularly North Buffalo and the Elmwood Village.

Rising assessments are not supposed to raise taxes, but that can happen depending on whether or not assessments drop in other sections of the city. New Commissioner Jason Shell said he expects a staff briefing Wednesday morning on the assessments and when those letters go out.

"Obviously, the enormity of the re-valuation creates its own excitement, but the job is administrative. It's a great support staff. It's regulated by law and we're going to do our jobs every day," he said. "Whenever it comes out, we're going to analyze the date and we're be communicating the data to the taxpayers and we'll go from there, but equity is what's being given here. So we'll evaluate and look at it."

A longtime City Hall employee and North Buffalo resident, Shell replaced Martin Kennedy who retired.

The citywide reassesment has been going on for years, as city property prices have gone through the roof because a rising number of residents have chased a shrinking number of homes on the market.

Various Common Councilmembers have been talking of a system where assessments for those on fixed incomes would not see their property assessments rise as fast as others. Potentially, that would raise the property taxes of those with increased assessments, since not everyone would rise more or less equally.

"We have current exemptions. Obviously, people are informed of those. How it pertains to this particular assessment, we'll continue to do what we're doing," Shell said. "If there are other things, we'll have those type of conversations and working with the Council and the community and making decisions as we go. Everything's regulated by New York State law."