BY ANN WILLIAMS
Mayor Paul Dyster deceived the taxpayers by waiting until five days after the mayoral election to tell us that he was planning to do a citywide reassessment. He plans to raise our assessments on average from between 17 and 40 percent. Yes, that is right – 17 to 40 percent! The failure to disclose this while he was campaigning for our votes prior to the election on November 3, 2015, combined with announcing it just five days later in a Niagara Gazette article dated November 8, 2015, is deceit at the highest level. This kind of deceit would cause some communities to call for his resignation.
Mayor Dyster, along with the support of Councilman Andrew Touma, has already decided to move forward with this and wants to convince us taxpayers that this is a great idea. Hmmm…, we do not recall him asking the taxpayers. We are not fooled by the nonsense you and Councilman Touma are feeding us. Nonsense like fair and equitable full value assessments, bla bla bla. The last time our elected officials tried to feed us this nonsense we rode them out of town. We all know that you want to reassess so you can raise our taxes period!
In the Niagara Gazette article dated November 8, 2015, Councilman Touma said a citywide reassessment is a source of further revenue. He said the city’s residential parcels are currently assessed at 83 percent of their current value, while some commercial properties clock in at roughly 60 percent. He said he would like to see assessment values brought to 100 percent citywide, and to do so would raise property taxes in the city of Niagara Falls. “We are not where we need to be.” He said. “That’s revenue the city is losing out on.”
Mayor Dyster, in that same article you claim it has not been done in some time, you claim it needs to be done…why? The simple answer is Mayor Dyster, along with the support of his city council majority, squandered almost two hundred million of our casino dollars irresponsibly and unnecessarily and now, he is coming back to the taxpayers to get more. How does an elected official spend two hundred million dollars of taxpayer money without a spending plan in place…THEY REASSESS. Well We Say NO!
The facts are that New York State does not mandate that properties be assessed at 100 percent of market value and there are many towns and cities assessed well below 100 percent. In fact, Lewiston has not reassessed since 2005 and is currently assessed at 73 percent of market value, and Wheatfield has not assessed since 1994 and is currently assessed at 63 percent of market value. They are fortunate to have elected officials who do not use reassessments as an excuse for a huge tax increase. Even the former Town of Niagara Supervisor, Steve Richards, called reassessments what they are – he said he believes reassessments are “hidden tax increases”.
We are not naïve. We know that this proposed reassessment is just a huge money grab. We know that tax increases from reassessments are the highest tax increase that we have ever and will ever receive at one time. Tax increases from reassessments can be so severe that the State of California enacted Proposition 13 which limits the amount that property taxes can be increased to 2% per year regardless of what the reassessed value is. The State of Florida also has similar protections in place.
Has anyone checked lately, close to 40 percent of city residents are retired and living on a fixed income or receiving some kind of assistance. We have one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. The median household income in Niagara Falls is one of the lowest in the state yet we are the highest taxed city in the United States.
We are shocked and outraged that a reassessment is even being proposed. We are already paying much more than any home or business owner should be forced to pay. The only thing that should be reassessed is the misuse of our money by our elected officials. Even former Senator George Maziarz said (Niagara) Falls city officials are giving drunken sailors a bad name. We have come to the conclusion that we need protection from those whom we voted into office to protect us.
We, the taxpayers, have one common goal, “stop the reassessments”. We will not sit idly by and watch our elected officials continue to raise the taxes on the already highest taxed residents and business owners in the United States. We will not allow them to tax us out of our homes and businesses all the while spending millions upon millions of our casino dollars without any regard for the very people to whom the money belongs. The taxpayers have spoken, and we will continue to speak until our elected officials stop the reassessments.
We call on Mayor Paul Dyster and City Council members Kristen Grandinetti, Ezra Scott, Jr., Kenny Tompkins, Andrew Touma and Charles Walker to start representing we, the taxpayers, and stop the proposed reassessment on the already over taxed residents and business owners of Niagara Falls.
Ann Williams leads the Committee to Stop the Reassessments & Continuous Tax Increase.