CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — There was an overflow crowd in Cheektowaga Thursday night for a special session Town Board meeting about the recent property reassessments issued to residents for the second time in two years.
“It’s ridiculous we get taxed, and taxed and taxed,” one resident said while addressing the Town Board.
Concerned neighbors flooded the room as well as the nearby hallway to try to get answers about these property assessments, especially after a similar process happened last year. That only added to tensions in the crowd.
“Who accomplished this reassessment? When did it happen?” one resident said.
Property owners are frustrated, angry and concerned about the recent assessments. Some residents say their property value increased by as much as 50 or 70 percent. The assessments are completed through the assessor’s office, which is led by Town Assessor Jill Murphy.
“f your assessment process is so accurate, how come the last time you did this my comparable didn’t even match my property?” another man added.
Many residents fear that because property values increased dramatically, so will their taxes. Meeting goers said they received their assessment paperwork after the May 1 deadline, meaning they could not challenge how much their property was worth as it was after the challenge date. Now, they have to file a grievance with the assessor’s office by May 25, which is less than two weeks away.
“I didn’t get my letter until [May] the tenth. So where does that leave me in terms of time and preparation?” another resident questioned.
Town Assessor Murphy as well as other board members joined the meeting via Zoom, but that did not stop residents from placing the blame on her shoulders. They also say Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski needs to budget effectively so that taxes do not increase.
“You better start thinking about how you’re spending this town’s money differently. I’m recommending you put an oversight committee into place to manage the budget for the town for this year,” Aimee Pikuzinski said.
One resident says this kind of committee used to exist but was disbanded during the pandemic.
“I used to be on the citizens budget advisory committee and I was on there for all four years of it and they disbanded it. They don’t like to listen to our suggestions when I was on it,” Daniel Kollander added.
Town Supervisor Benczkowski said she will try to work with other town leaders on the budget so that taxes will stay the same.
“I will make sure there is no tax levy increase, meaning what goes to the taxpayers to pick up the cost,” Supervisor Benczkowski continued.
The Supervisor blamed the assessment mess on a miscommunication between council members and the assessor’s office. She says she shares residents’ concerns, but there is nothing she can do about the assessments.
“I’m not happy about this at all,” Supervisor Benczkowski said while holding back tears. “They [residents] deserve better and the way I was blindsided, I’m very, very upset about it.”
She continued to say she wants the Assessor Murphy to come up with a regular assessment plan so that town leaders and residents know what to expect. She’s also considering ways to get more public input, such as reviving the budget oversight committee.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.