Fairness through assessments in Cicero

The recent town-wide revaluing of property in Cicero has left some of our residents upset and ready for a fight. That's a good thing. Anyone who truly believes their new assessment is out of line should challenge it and there is a procedure to do that. The town's assessment roll has to be as accurate as possible to ensure all property owners are billed their fair share of town, county and school taxes.

Currently it is not the case in Cicero. It's well known that assessments in our town have been out of whack for many decades. It has been at least 60 years since Cicero had a thorough and complete review of its property. Over the years assessment updates were sporadic and spotty. As the town grew new homes and other structures, they were simply added to the assessment rolls as they were built. This produced a patchwork of wildly unequal property values.

Today, the town's existing assessment roll values of identical homes, which should be relatively equal, vary significantly. Today some large, nicely constructed houses in desirable locations often have a value that is far less than that of a standard home in a standard housing development. This inequity results in many of the town's 13,000 property owners receiving unfair tax bills. Some pay too little while others pay too much. Previous town assessors and New York State's Office of Real Property Tax Services warned past town boards that Cicero's assessment rolls desperately needed updating and correcting.

Those warnings, however, repeatedly fell on deaf ears. Knowing that a full blown reassessment would upset many residents, particularly those who vote, prior town boards continually ignored the problem and did nothing while the inequities continued to grow.

Two years ago the previous town board, of which I was a member, decided it was time to put political considerations aside, do the right thing and fix our town's assessment roll. The revaluing part of the project is now done and, as expected, some property owners are pleased, others are ambivalent and some are very upset-especially those owning property along the Oneida Lake waterfront.

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